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Collected Stories of 


Soldiers Pay 

Sartor Is 

The Sound and the Fury 
As I Lay Dying 


These Thirteen 

Light hi August 

A Green Bough (Poems) 

Doctor Mart mo 


Absalom , Absalom! 

The Uircanqiiished 

The Wild Palms 

The Hamlet 

Go Down, Moses 

Intruder hi the Dust 

Knight* s Gambit 

Collected Stories of 



New York 

Acknowledgment is here made to the following magazines, in \vhich 
some of the stories included in this volume first appeared: The American 
Mercury, Voriun, liar per* s Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, Scrib- 
ticfs Magazine and The Sewanee Review. 

Copyright, 1934, 1950, by Random House, Inc. Copyright, 1930, 1931, 
1932, 1933, 1934, !935 I 939' [ 94^ J 94^i by William Faulkner. Copyright, 
1930, by For inn. Copyright, 1930, 1932, 1934, ! 94 r ! 94 2 i *943 U Y Curtis 
Publishing Company. 

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Con- 
ventions. Published in New York by Random House, Inc., and simul- 
taneously in Toronto, Canada, by Random House of Canada, Limited. 
Manufactured in the United States of America, by The Haddon Craftsmen, 
Inc., Scranton. Pa. 



Earn Burning 3 

Shingles for the Lord 27 

The Tall Men 45 

A Bear Hunt 63 

Tivo Soldiers 81 

Shall Not Perish 101 


A Rose for Entity 1 19 

Hair 1 3 i 

Centaur in Brass 149 

Dry September 169 

Death Drag 185 

Elly 207 

Uncle Willy 225 

Mule in the Yard . " 2 49 

That Will Be Fine 265 

That Evening Sun 289 


Red Leaves 313 

A Justice 343 

A Courtship 361 




Ad Astra 407 

Victory 431 

Crevasse 465 

Turnabout 475 

All the Dead Pilots 5 1 1 


Wash 535 

Honor 551 

Dr. Mar tin o 565 

Fox Hunt 587 

Pennsylvania Station 609 

Artist at Home 627 

Te Brooch 647 

Af y Grandmother Millard 667 

Golden Land 701 

There Was a Queen 727 

Mountain Victory 745 


Beyond 781 

Black Music 799 

Tfce Leg 823 

Mistral 843 

Divorce in Naples 877 

Carcassonne 895 


Barn Burning 

Shingles for the Lord 

The Tall Men 

A Bear Hunt 

Two Soldiers 

Shall Not Perish 

Barn Burning 

THE STORE in which the Justice of the Peace's court was sit- 
ting smelled of cheese. The boy, crouched on his nail keg at 
the back of the crowded room, knew he smelled cheese, and 
more: from where he sat he could see the ranked shelves 
close-packed with the solid, squat, dynamic shapes of tin 
cans whose labels his stomach read, not from the lettering 
which meant nothing to his mind but from the scarlet devils 
arid the silver curve of fish this, the cheese which he knew 
he smelied and the hermetic meat which his intestines be- 
lieved he smelled coming in intermittent gusts momentary 
and brief between the other constant one, the smell and sense 
just a little of fear because mostly of despair and grief, the 
old fierce pull of blood. He could not see the table where the 
Justice sat and before which his father and his father's enemy 
(our enemy he thought in that despair; ourn! mine and hisn 
both! He's my father!} stood, but he could hear them, the 
two of them that is, because his father had said no word yet: 

"But what proof have you, Mr. Harris?" 

"I told you. The hog got into my corn. I caught it up and 
sent it back to him. He had no fence that would hold it. I told 
him so, warned him. The next time I put the hog in my pen. 
When he came to get it I gave him enough wire to patch 
up his pen. The next time I put the hog up and kept it. I rode 
down to his house and saw the wire I gave him still rolled on 

4 The Country 

to the spool in his yard. I told him he could have the hog 
when he paid me a dollar pound fee. That evening a nigger 
came with the dollar and got the hog. He was a strange 
nigger. He said, 'He say to tell you wood and hay kin burn.' 
I said, 'What?' 'That whut he say to tell you,' the nigger 
said. 'Wood and hay kin burn.' That night my barn burned. 
I got the stock out but I lost the barn." 

"Where is the nigger? Have you got him?" 

"He was a strange nigger, I tell you. I don't know what 
became of him." 

"But that's not proof. Don't you see that's not proof?" 

"Get that boy up here. He knows." For a moment the boy 
thought too that the man meant his older brother until 
Harris said, "Not him. The little one. The boy," and, 
crouching, small for his age, small and wiry like his father, 
in patched and faded jeans even too small for him, with 
straight, uncombed, brown hair and eyes gray and wild as 
storm scud, he saw the men between himself and the table 
part and become a lane of grim faces, at the end of which 
he saw the Justice, a shabby, collarless, graying man in 
spectacles, beckoning him. He felt no floor under his bare 
feet; he seemed to walk beneath the palpable weight of the 
grim turning faces. His father, stiff in his black Sunday coat 
donned not for the trial but for the moving, did not even 
look at him. He aims for me to lie, he thought, again with 
that frantic grief and despair. And I 'will have to do hit. 

"What's your name, boy?" the Justice said. 

"Colonel Sartoris Snopes," the boy whispered. 

"Hey?" the Justice said. "Talk louder. Colonel Sartoris? 
I reckon anybody named for Colonel Sartoris in this country 
can't help but tell the truth, can they?" The boy said noth- 
ing. Enemy! Enemy/ he thought; for a moment he could not 
even see, could not see that the Justice's face was kindly nor 
discern that his voice was troubled when he spoke to the man 

Barn Burning 5 

named Harris: "Do you want me to question this boy?" But 
he could hear, and during those subsequent long seconds 
while there was absolutely no sound in the crowded little 
room save that of quiet and intent breathing it was as if he 
had swung outward at the end of a grape vine, over a ravine, 
and at the top of the swing had been caught in a prolonged 
instant of mesmerized gravity, weightless in time. 

"No!" Harris said violently, explosively. "Damnation! 
Send him out of here!" Now time, the fluid world, rushed 
beneath him again, the voices coming to him again through 
the smell of cheese and sealed meat, the fear and despair and 
the old grief of blood: 

"This case is closed. I can't find against you, Snopes, but 
I can give you advice. Leave this country and don't come 
back to it." 

His father spoke for the first time, his voice cold and 
hai;sh, level, without emphasis: "I aim to. I don't figure to 
stay in a country among people who . . ." he said something 
unprintable and vile, addressed to no one. 

"That'll do," the Justice said. "Take your wagon and get 
out of this country before dark. Case dismissed." 

His father turned, and he followed the stiff black coat, the 
wiry figure walking a little stiffly from where a Confederate 
provost's man's musket ball had taken him in the heel on a 
stolen horse thirty years ago, followed the two backs now, 
since his older brother had appeared from somewhere in the 
crowd, no taller than the father but thicker, chewing tobacco 
steadily, between the two lines of grim-faced men and out 
of the store and across the worn gallery and down the sag- 
ging steps and among the dogs and half-grown boys in the 
mild May dust, where as he passed a voice hissed: 


Again he could not see, whirling; there was a face in a red 
haze, moonlike, bigger than the full moon, the owner of it 

6 The Country 

half again his size, he leaping in the red haze toward the face, 
feeling no blow, feeling no shock when his head struck the 
earth, scrabbling up and leaping again, feeling no blow this 
time either and tasting no blood, scrabbling up to see the 
other boy in full flight and himself already leaping into pur- 
suit as his father's hand jerked him back, the harsh, cold 
voice speaking above him: "Go get in the wagon." 

It stood in a grove of locusts and mulberries across the 
road. His two hulking sisters in their Sunday dresses and his 
mother and her sister in calico and sunbonnets were already 
in it, sitting on and among the sorry residue of the dozen and 
more movings which even the boy could remember the 
battered stove, the broken beds and chairs, the clock inlaid 
with mother-of-pearl, which would not run, stopped at 
some fourteen minutes past two o'clock of a dead and for- 
gotten day and time, which had been his mother's dowry. 
She was crying, though when she saw him she drew her 
sleeve across her face and began to descend from the wagon. 
"Get back," the father said. 

"He's hurt. I got to get some water and wash his . . ." 

"Get back in the wagon," his father said. He got in too, 
over the tail-gate. His father mounted to the seat where the 
older brother already sat and struck the gaunt mules two 
savage blows with the peeled willow, but without heat. It 
was not even sadistic; it was exactly that same quality which 
in later years would cause his descendants to over-run the 
engine before putting a motor car into motion, striking and 
reining back in the same movement. The wagon went on, 
the store with its quiet crowd of grimly watching men 
dropped behind; a curve in the road hid it. Forever he 
thought. Maybe he's done satisfied now, now that he has . . . 
stopping himself, not to say it aloud even to himself. His 
mother's hand touched his shoulder. 

"Does hit hurt?" she said. 

Barn Burning 7 

"Naw," he said. "Hit don't hurt. Lemme be." 
"Can't you wipe some of the blood off before hit dries?" 
"I'll wash to-night," he said. "Lemme be, I tell you." 
The Wagon went on. He did not know where they were 
going. None of them ever did or ever asked, because it was 
always somewhere, always a house of sorts waiting for them 
a day or two days or even three days away. Likely his father 
had already arranged to make a crop on another farm before 
he ... Again he had to stop himself. He (the father) always 
did. There was something about his wolflike independence 
and even courage when the advantage was at least neutral 
which impressed strangers, as if they got from his latent 
ravening ferocity not so much a sense of dependability as a 
feeling that his ferocious conviction in the rightness of his 
own actions would be of advantage to all whose interest 
lay with his. 

That night they camped, in a grove of oaks and beeches 
where a spring ran. The nights were still cool and they had 
a fire against it, of a rail lifted from a nearby fence and cut 
into lengths a small fire, neat, niggard almost, a shrewd 
fire; such fires were his father's habit and custom always, 
even in freezing weather. Older, the boy might have re- 
marked this and wondered why not a big one; why should 
not a man who had not only seen the waste and extravagance 
of war, but who had in his blood an inherent voracious 
prodigality with material not his own, have burned every- 
thing in sight? Then he might have gone a step farther and 
thought that that was the reason: that niggard blaze was the 
living fruit of nights passed during those four years in the 
woods hiding from all men, blue or gray, with his strings of 
horses (captured horses, he called them). And older still, he 
might have divined the true reason: that the element of fire 
spoke to some deep mainspring of his father's being, as the 
element of steel or of powder spoke to other men, as the one 

8 The Country 

weapon for the preservation of integrity, else breath were 
not worth the breathing, and hence to be regarded with 
respect and used with discretion. 

But he did not think this now and he had seen those same 
niggard blazes all his life. He merely ate his supper beside it 
and was already half asleep over his iron plate when his 
father called him, and once more he followed the stiff back, 
the stiff and ruthless limp, up the slope and on to the starlit 
road where, turning, he could see his father against the stars 
but without face or depth a shape black, flat, and bloodless 
as though cut from tin in the iron folds of the frockcoat 
which had not been made for him, the voice harsh like tin 
and without heat like tin: 

"You were fixing to tell them. You would have told him." 
He didn't answer. His father struck him with the flat of his 
hand on the side of the head, hard but without heat, exactly 
as he had struck the two mules at the store, exactly as he 
would strike either of them with any stick in order to kill 
a horse fly, his voice still without heat or anger: "You're 
getting to be a man. You got to learn. You got to learn to 
stick to your own blood or you ain't going to have any 
blood to stick to you. Do you think either of them, any man 
there this morning, would? Don't you know all they wanted 
was a chance to get at me because they knew I had them 
beat? Eh?" Later, twenty years later, he was to tell himself, 
"If I had said they wanted only truth, justice, he would have 
hit me again." But now he said nothing. He was not crying. 
He just stood there. "Answer me," his father said. 

"Yes," he whispered. His father turned. 

"Get on to bed. We'll be there tomorrow." 

To-morrow they were there. In the early afternoon the 
wagon stopped before a paintless two-room house identical 
almost with the dozen others it had stopped before even in 
the boy's ten years, and again, as on the other dozen occa- 

Barn Burning 9 

sions, his mother and aunt got down and began to unload the 
wagon, although his two sisters and his father and brother 
had not moved. 

"Likely hit ain't fitten for hawgs," one of the sisters said. 

"Nevertheless, fit it will and you'll hog it and like it," his 
father said. "Get out of them chairs and help your Ma un- 

The two sisters got down, big, bovine, in a flutter of 
cheap ribbons; one of them drew from the jumbled wagon 
bed a battered lantern, the other a worn broom. His father 
handed the reins to the older son and began to climb stiffly 
over the wheel. "When they get unloaded, take the team to 
the barn and feed them." Then he said, and at first the boy 
thought he was still speaking to his brother: "Come with 


"Me?" he said. 

"Yes," his father said. "You." 

'"Abner," his mother said. His father paused and looked 
back the harsh level stare beneath the shaggy, graying, 
irascible brows. 

"I reckon I'll have a word with the man that aims to begin 
to-morrow owning me body and soul for the next eight 

They went back up the road. A week ago or before last 
night, that is he would have asked where they were going, 
but not now. His father had struck him before last night 
but never before had he paused afterward to explain why; 
it was as if the blow and the following calm, outrageous 
voice still rang, repercussed, divulging nothing to him save 
the terrible handicap of being young, the light weight of his 
few years, just heavy enough to prevent his soaring free of 
the world as it seemed to be ordered but not heavy enough 
to keep him footed solid in it, to resist it and try to change 
the course of its events. 

io The Country 

Presently he could see the grove of oaks and cedars and 
the other flowering trees and shrubs where the house would 
be, though not the house yet. They walked beside a fence 
massed with honeysuckle and Cherokee roses and came to a 
gate swinging open between two brick pillars, and now, 
beyond a sweep of drive, he saw the house for the first time 
and at that instant he forgot his father and the terror and 
despair both, and even when he remembered his father again 
(who had not stopped) the terror and despair did not re- 
turn. Because, for all the twelve movings, they had sojourned 
until now in a poor country, a land of small farms and fields 
and houses, and he had never seen a house like this before. 
Hit's big as a courthouse he thought quietly, with a surge 
of peace and joy whose reason he could not have thought 
into words, being too young for that: They are safe from 
him. People 'whose lives are a part of this peace and dignity 
are beyond his touch, he no more to them than a buzzing 
wasp: capable of stinging for a little moment but that's all; 
the spell of this peace and dignity rendering even the barns 
and stable and cribs which belong to it impervious to the 
puny flames he might contrive . . . this, the peace and joy, 
ebbing for an instant as he looked again at the stiff black 
back, the stiff and implacable limp of the figure which was 
not dwarfed by the house, for the reason that it had never 
looked big anywhere and which now, against the serene 
columned backdrop, had more than ever that impervious 
quality of something cut ruthlessly from tin, depthless, as 
though, sidewise to the sun, it would cast no shadow. Watch- 
ing him, the boy remarked the absolutely undeviating course 
which his father held and saw the stiff foot come squarely 
down in a pile of fresh droppings where a horse had stood 
in the drive and which his father could have avoided by a 
simple change of stride. But it ebbed only for a moment, 
though he could not have thought this into words either, 

Barn Burning L i 

walking on in the spell of the house, which he could even 
want but without envy, without sorrow, certainly never 
with that ravening and jealous rage which unknown to him 
walked in the ironlike black coat before him: Maybe be will 
feel it too. Maybe it 'will even change him now from 'what 
maybe he couldn't help but be. 

They crossed the portico. Now he could hear his father's 
stiff foot as it came down on the boards with clocklike final- 
ity, a sound out of all proportion to the displacement of the 
body it bore and which was not dwarfed either by the white 
door before it, as though it had attained to a sort of vicious 
and ravening minimum not to be dwarfed by anything the 
fiat, wide, black hat, the formal coat of broadcloth which had 
once been black but which had now that friction-glazed 
greenish cast of the bodies of old house flies, the lifted sleeve 
which was too large, the lifted hand like a curled claw. The 
door opened so promptly that the boy knew the Negro must 
have been watching them all the time, an old man with neat 
grizzled hair, in a linen jacket, who stood barring the door 
with his body, saying, "Wipe yo foots, white man, fo you 
come in here. Major ain't home nohow." 

"Get out of my way, nigger," his father said, without 
heat too, flinging the door back and the Negro also and 
entering, his hat still on his head. And now the boy saw the 
prints of the stiff foot on the door jamb and saw them appear 
on the pale rug behind the machinelike deliberation of the 
foot which seemed to bear (or transmit) twice the weight 
which the body compassed. The Negro was shouting "Miss 
Lula! Miss Lula!" somewhere behind them, then the boy, 
deluged as though by a warm wave by a suave turn of 
carpeted stair and a pendant glitter of chandeliers and a mute 
gleam of gold frames, heard the swift feet and saw her too, 
a lady perhaps he had never seen her like before either 
in a gray, smooth gown with lace at the throat and an apron 

12 The Country 

tied at the waist and the sleeves turned back, wiping cake or 
biscuit dough from her hands with a towel as she came up 
the hall, looking not at his father at all but at the tracks on 
the blond rug with an expression of incredulous amazement. 

"I tried," the Negro cried. "I tole him to . . ." 

"Will you please go away?" she said in a shaking voice. 
"Major de Spain is not at home. Will you please go away?" 

His father had not spoken again. He did not speak again. 
He did not even look at her. He just stood stiff in the center 
of the rug, in his hat, the shaggy iron-gray brows twitching 
slightly above the pebble-colored eyes as he appeared to 
examine the house with brief deliberation. Then with the 
same deliberation he turned; the boy watched him pivot on 
the good leg and saw the stiff foot drag round the arc of 
the turning, leaving a final long and fading smear. His father 
never looked at it, he never once looked down at the rug. 
The Negro held the door. It closed behind them, upon the 
hysteric and indistinguishable woman-wail. His father 
stopped at the top of the steps and scraped his boot clean on 
the edge of it. At the gate he stopped again. He stood for 
a moment, planted stiffly on the stiff foot, looking back at 
the house. "Pretty and white, ain't it?" he said. "That's 
sweat. Nigger sweat. Maybe it ain't white enough yet to 
suit him. Maybe he wants to mix some white sweat with it." 

Two hours later the boy was chopping wood behind the 
house within which his mother and aunt and the two sisters 
(the mother and aunt, not the two girls, he knew that; even 
at this distance and muffled by walls the flat loud voices of 
the two girls emanated an incorrigible idle inertia) were 
setting up the stove to prepare a meal, when he heard the 
hooves and saw the linen-clad man on a fine sorrel mare, 
whom he recognized even before he saw the rolled rug in 
front of the Negro youth following on a fat bay carriage 
horse a suffused, angry face vanishing, still at full gallop, 

Barn Burning 13 

beyond the corner of the house where his father and brother 
were sitting in the two tilted chairs; and a moment later, 
almost before he could have put the axe down, he heard the 
hooves again and watched the sorrel mare go back out of 
the yard, already galloping again. Then his father began to 
shout one of the sisters' names, who presently emerged back- 
ward from the kitchen door dragging the rolled rug along 
the ground by one end while the other sister walked behind 

"If you ain't going to tote, go on and set up the wash 
pot," the first said. 

"You, Sarty!" the second shouted. "Set up the wash pot!" 
His father appeared at the door, framed against that shabbi- 
ness, as he had been against that other bland perfection, im- 
pervious to either, the mother's anxious face at his shoulder. 

"Go on," the father said. "Pick it up." The two sisters 
stooped, broad, lethargic; stooping, they presented an in- 
credible expanse of pale cloth and a flutter of tawdry rib- 

"If I thought enough of a rug to have to git hit all the 
way from France I wouldn't keep hit where folks coming in 
would have to tromp on hit," the first said. They raised the 

"Abner," the mother said. "Let me do it." 

"You go back and git dinner," his father said. "I'll tend to 

From the woodpile through the rest of the afternoon the 
boy watched them, the rug spread flat in the dust beside the 
bubbling wash-pot, the two sisters stooping over it with that 
profound and lethargic reluctance, while the father stood 
over them in turn, implacable and grim, driving them 
though never raising his voice again. He could smell the 
harsh homemade lye they were using; he saw his mother 
come to the door once and look toward them with an ex- 

14 The Country 

pression not anxious now but very like despair; he saw his 
father turn, and he fell to with the axe and .saw from the 
corner of his eye his father raise from the ground a flattish 
fragment of field stone and examine it and return to the pot, 
and this time his mother actually spoke: "Abner. Abner. 
Please don't. Please, Abner." 

Then he was done too. It was dusk; the whippoorwills had 
already begun. He could smell coffee from the room where 
they would presently eat the cold food remaining from the 
mid-afternoon meal, though when he entered the house he 
realized they were having coffee again probably because 
there was a fire on the hearth, before which the rug now lay 
spread over the backs of the two chairs. The tracks of his 
father's foot were gone. Where they had been were now 
long, water-cloudy scoriations resembling the sporadic 
course of a lilliputian mowing machine. 

It still hung there while they ate the cold food and then 
went to bed, scattered without order or claim up and down 
the two rooms, his mother in one bed, where his father 
would later lie, the older brother in the other, himself, the 
aunt, and the two sisters on pallets on the floor. But his 
father was not in bed yet. The last thing the boy remem- 
bered was the depthless, harsh silhouette of the hat and coat 
bending over the rug and it seemed to him that he had not 
even closed his eyes when the silhouette was standing over 
him, the fire almost dead behind it, the stiff foot prodding 
him awake. "Catch up the mule," his father said. 

When he returned with the mule his father was standing 
in the black door, the rolled rug over his shoulder. " Ain't 
you going to ride?" he said. 

"No. Give me your foot." 

He bent his knee into his father's hand, the wiry, surpris- 
ing power flowed smoothly, rising, he rising with it, on to the 
mule's bare back (they had owned a saddle once; the boy 

Barn Burning 15 

could remember it though not when or where) and with the 
same effortlessness his father swung the rug up in front of 
him. Now in the starlight they retraced the afternoon's path, 
up the dusty road rife with honeysuckle, through the gate 
and up the black tunnel of the drive to the lightless house, 
where he sat on the mule and felt the rough warp of the rug 
drag across his thighs and vanish. 

"Don't you 'want me to help?" he whispered. His father 
did not answer and now he heard again that stiff foot strik- 
ing the hollow portico with that wooden and clocklike de- 
liberation, that outrageous overstatement of the weight it 
carried. The rug, hunched, not flung (the boy could tell 
that even in the darkness) from his father's shoulder struck 
the angle of wall and floor with a sound unbelievably loud, 
thunderous, then the foot again, unhurried and enormous; a 
light came on in the house and the boy sat, tense, breathing 
steadily and quietly and just a little fast, though the foot 
itself did not increase its beat at all, descending the steps 
now; now the boy could see him. 

"Don't you want to ride now?" he whispered. "We kin 
both ride now," the light within the house altering now, 
flaring up and sinking. He's coming down the stairs no<w, 
he thought. He had already ridden the mule up beside the 
horse block; presently his father was up behind him and he 
doubled the reins over and slashed the mule across the neck, 
but before the animal could begin to trot the hard, thin arm 
came round him, the hard, knotted hand jerking the mule 
back to a walk. 

In the first red rays of the sun they were in the lot, putting 
plow gear on the mules. This time the sorrel mare was in the 
lot before he heard it at all, the rider collarless and even 
bareheaded, trembling, speaking in a shaking voice as the 
woman in the house had done, his father merely looking up 

1 6 The Country 

once before stooping again to the hame he was buckling, so 
that the man on the mare spoke to his stooping back: 

"You must realize you have ruined that rug. Wasn't there 
anybody here, any of your women . . ." he ceased, shaking, 
the boy watching him, the older brother leaning now in the 
stable door, chewing, blinking slowly and steadily at nothing 
apparently. "It cost a hundred dollars. But you never had a 
hundred dollars. You never will. So I'm going to charge you 
twenty bushels of corn against your crop. I'll add it in your 
contract and when you come to the commissary you can 
sign it. That won't keep Mrs. de Spain quiet but maybe it 
will teach you to wipe your feet off before you enter her 
house again." 

Then he was gone. The boy looked at his father, who still 
had not spoken or even looked up again, who was now ad- 
justing the logger-head in the hame. 

"Pap," he said. His father looked at him the inscrutable 
face, the shaggy brows beneath which the gray eyes glinted 
coldly. Suddenly the boy went toward him, fast, stopping 
as suddenly. "You done the best you could!" he cried. "If 
he wanted hit done different why didn't he wait and tell 
you how? He won't git no twenty bushels! He won't git 
none! We'll gether hit and hide hit! I kin watch . . ." 

"Did you put the cutter back in that straight stock like 
I told you?" 

"No, sir," he said. 

"Then go do it." 

That was Wednesday. During the rest of that week he 
\vorked steadily, at what was within his scope and some 
\vhich was beyond it, with an industry that did not need to 
be driven nor even commanded twice; he had this from his 
mother, with the difference that some at least of what he 
did he liked to do, such as splitting wood with the half-size 
axe which his mother and aunt had earned, or saved money 

Barn Burning \j 

somehow, to present him with at Christmas. In company 
with the two older women (and on one afternoon, even one 
of the sisters) , he built pens for the shoat and the cow which 
were a part of his father's contract with the landlord, and 
one afternoon, his father being absent, gone somewhere on 
one of the mules, he went to the field. 

They were running a middle buster now, his brother 
holding the plow straight while he handled the reins, and 
walking beside the straining mule, the rich black soil shear- 
ing cool and damp against his bare ankles, he thought Maybe 
this is the end of it. Maybe even that twenty bushels that 
seems hard to have to pay for just a rug 'will be a cheap price 
for him to stop forever and always from being what he used 
to be; thinking, dreaming now, so that his brother had to 
speak sharply to him to mind the mule: Maybe he even 
won't collect the twenty bushels. Maybe it will all add up 
and balance and vanish corn, rug, fire; the terror and grief, 
the being pulled two ways like between two teams of horses 
gone, done with for ever and ever. 

Then it was Saturday; he looked up from beneath the 
mule he was harnessing and saw his father in the black coat 
and hat. "Not that," his father said. "The wagon gear." 
And then, two hours later, sitting in the wagon bed behind 
his father and brother on the seat, the wagon accomplished 
a final curve, and he saw the weathered paintless store with 
its tattered tobacco- and patent-medicine posters and the 
tethered wagons and saddle animals below the gallery. He 
mounted the gnawed steps behind his father and brother, 
and there again was the lane of quiet, watching faces for the 
three of them to walk through. He saw the man in spec- 
tacles sitting at the plank table and he did not need to be 
told this was a Justice of the Peace; he sent one glare of 
fierce, exultant, partisan defiance at the man in collar and 
cravat now, whom he had seen but twice before in his life, 

1 8 The Country 

and that on a galloping horse, who now wore on his face 
an expression not of rage but of amazed unbelief which the 
boy could not have known was at the incredible circum- 
stance of being sued by one of his own tenants, and came 
and stood against his father and cried at the Justice: "He 
ain't done it! He ain't burnt . . ." 

"Go back to the wagon," his father said. 

''Burnt?" the Justice said. "Do I understand this rug was 
burned too?" 

"Does anybody here claim it was?" his father said. "Go 
back to the wagon." But he did not, he merely retreated to 
the rear of the room, crowded as that other had been, but 
not to sit down this time, instead, to stand pressing among 
the motionless bodies, listening to the voices: 

"And you claim twenty bushels of corn is too high for 
the damage you did to the rug?" 

"He brought the rug to me and said he wanted the tracks 
washed out of it. I washed the tracks out and took the rug 
back to him." 

"But you didn't carry the rug back to him in the same 
condition it was in before you made the tracks on it." 

His father did not answer, and now for perhaps half a 
minute there was no sound at all save that of breathing, the 
faint, steady suspiration of complete and intent listening. 

"You decline to answer that, Mr. Snopes?" Again his 
father did not answer. "I'm going to find against you, Mr. 
Snopes. I'm going to find that you were responsible for the 
injury to Major de Spain's rug and hold you liable for it. 
But twenty bushels of corn seems a little high for a man in 
your circumstances to have to pay. Major de Spain claims it 
cost a hundred dollars. October corn will be worth about 
fifty cents. I figure that if Major de Spain can stand a ninety- 
five dollar loss on something he paid cash for, you can stand 
a five-dollar loss you haven't earned yet. I hold you in dam- 

Barn Burning 19 

ages to Major de Spain to the amount of ten bushels of corn 
over and above your contract with him, to be paid to him 
out of your crop at gathering time. Court adjourned." 

It had taken no time hardly, the morning was but half 
begun. He thought they would return home and perhaps 
back to the field, since they were late, far behind all other 
farmers. But instead his father passed on behind the wagon, 
merely indicating with his hand for the older brother to 
follow with it, and crossed the road toward the blacksmith 
shop opposite, pressing on after his father, overtaking him, 
speaking, whispering up at the harsh, calm face beneath the 
weathered hat: "He won't git no ten bushels neither. He 
won't git one. We'll . . ." until his father glanced for an 
instant down at him, the face absolutely calm, the grizzled 
eyebrows tangled above the cold eyes, the voice almost 
pleasant, almost gentle: 

"You think so? Well, we'll wait till October anyway." 

The matter of the wagon the setting of a spoke or two 
and the tightening of the tires did not take long either, the 
business of the tires accomplished by driving the wagon into 
the spring branch behind the shop and letting it stand there, 
the mules nuzzling into the water from time to time, and the 
boy on the seat with the idle reins, looking up the slope and 
through the sooty tunnel of the shed where the slow ham- 
mer rang and where his father sat on an upended cypress 
bolt, easily, either talking or listening, still sitting there when 
the boy brought the dripping wagon up out of the branch 
and halted it before the door. 

"Take them on to the shade and hitch," his father said. 
He did so and returned. His father and the smith and a third 
man squatting on his heels inside the door were talking, 
about crops and animals; the boy, squatting too in the am- 
moniac dust and hoof-parings and scales of rust, heard his 
father tell a long and unhurried story out of the time before 

20 The Country 

the birth of the older brother even when he had been a pro- 
fessional horsetrader. And then his father came up beside 
him where he stood before a tattered last year's circus poster 
on the other side of the store, gazing rapt and quiet at the 
scarlet horses, the incredible poisings and convolutions of 
tulle and tights and the painted leers of comedians, and said, 
"It's time to eat." 

But not at home. Squatting beside his brother against the 
front wall, he watched his father emerge from the store and 
produce from a paper sack a segment of cheese and divide it 
carefully and deliberately into three with his pocket knife 
and produce crackers from the same sack. They all three 
squatted on the gallery and ate, slowly, without talking; 
then in the store again, they drank from a tin dipper tepid 
water smelling of the cedar bucket and of living beech trees. 
And still they did not go home. It was a horse lot this time, 
a tall rail fence upon and along which men stood and sat 
and out of which one by one horses were led, to be walked 
and trotted and then cantered back and forth along the road 
while the slow swapping and buying went on and the sun 
began to slant westward, they the three of them watch- 
ing and listening, the older brother with his muddy eyes and 
his steady, inevitable tobacco, the father commenting now 
and then on certain of the animals, to no one in particular. 

It was after sundown when they reached home. They ate 
supper by lamplight, then, sitting on the doorstep, the boy 
watched the night fully accomplish, listening to the whip- 
poorwills and the frogs, when he heard his mother's voice: 
"Abner! No! No! Oh, God. Oh, God. Abner!" and he rose, 
whirled, and saw the altered light through the door where 
a candle stub now burned in a bottle neck on the table and 
his father, still in the hat and coat, at once formal and bur- 
lesque as though dressed carefully for some shabby and 
ceremonial violence, emptying the reservoir of the lamp 

Barn Burning 2 1 

back into the five-gallon kerosene can from which it had 
been filled, while the mother tugged at his arm until he 
shifted the lamp to the other hand and flung her back, not 
savagely or viciously, just hard, into the wall, her hands 
flung out against the wall for balance, her mouth open and 
in her face the same quality of hopeless despair as had been 
in. her voice. Then his father saw him standing in the door. 

"Go to the barn and get that can of oil we were oiling 
the wagon with," he said. The boy did not move. Then he 
could speak. 

"What . . ." he cried. "What are you . . ." 

"Go get that oil," his father said. "Go." 

Then he was moving, running, outside the house, toward 
the stable: this the old habit, the old blood which he had not 
been permitted to choose for himself, which had been be- 
queathed him willy nilly and which had run for so long 
(and who knew where, battening on what of outrage and 
savagery and lust) before it came to him. / could keep on, 
he thought. / could run on and on and never look back, 
never need to see his face again. Only I carft. I can't, the 
rusted can in his hand now, the liquid sploshing in it as he 
ran back to the house and into it, into the sound of his 
mother's weeping in the next room, and handed the can to 
his father. 

"Ain't you going to even send a nigger?" he cried. "At 
least you sent a nigger before!" 

This time his father didn't strike him. The hand came 
even faster than the blow had, the same hand which had set 
the can on the table with almost excruciating care flashing 
from the can toward him too quick for him to follow it, 
gripping him by the back of his shirt and on to tiptoe before 
he had seen it quit the can, the face stooping at him in 
breathless and frozen ferocity, the cold, dead voice speaking 
over him to the older brother who leaned against the table. 

22 The Country 

chewing with that steady, curious, sidewise motion of cows: 

"Empty the can into the big one and go on. I'll catch up 
with you/' 

"Better tie him up to the bedpost," the brother said. 

"Do like I told you," the father said. Then the boy was 
moving, his bunched shirt and the hard, bony hand between 
his shoulder-blades, his toes just touching the floor, across 
the room and into the other one, past the sisters sitting with 
spread heavy thighs in the two chairs over the cold hearth, 
and to where his mother and aunt sat side by side on the 
bed, the aunt's arms about his mother's shoulders. 

"Hold him," the father said. The aunt made a startled 
movement. "Not you," the father said. "Lennie. Take hold 
of him. I want to see you do it." His mother took him by the 
wrist. "You'll hold him better than that. If he gets loose 
don't you know what he is going to do? He will go up 
yonder." He jerked his head toward the road. "Maybe I'd 
better tie him." 

"I'll hold him," his mother whispered. 

"See you do then." Then his father was gone, the stiff 
foot heavy and measured upon the boards, ceasing at last. 

Then he began to struggle. His mother caught him in 
both arms, he jerking and wrenching at them. He would be 
stronger in the end, he knew that. But he had no time to wait 
for it. "Lemme go!" he cried. "I don't want to have to hit 

"Let him go!" the aunt said. "If he don't go, before God, 
I am going up there myself! " 

"Don't you see I can't?" his mother cried. "Sarty! Sarty! 
No! No! Help me, Lizzie!" 

Then he was free. His aunt grasped at him but it was too 
late. He whirled, running, his mother stumbled forward on 
to her knees behind him, crying to the nearer sister: "Catch 
him, Net! Catch him!" But that was too late too, the sister 

Barn Burning 23 

(the sisters were twins, born at the same time, yet either of 
them now gave the impression of being, encompassing as 
much living meat and volume and weight as any other two 
of the family) not yet having begun to rise from the chair, 
her head, face, alone merely turned, presenting to him in 
the flying instant an astonishing expanse of young female 
features untroubled by any surprise even, wearing only an 
expression of bovine interest. Then he was out of the room, 
out of the house, in the mild dust of the starlit road and the 
heavy rifeness of honeysuckle, the pale ribbon unspooling 
with terrific slowness under his running feet, reaching the 
gate at last and turning in, running, his heart and lungs 
drumming, on up the drive toward the lighted house, the 
lighted door. He did not knock, he burst in, sobbing for 
breath, incapable for the moment of speech; he saw the 
astonished face of the Negro in the linen jacket without 
knowing when the Negro had appeared. 

"De Spain!" he cried, panted. "Where's . . ." then he saw 
the white man too emerging from a white door down the 
hall. "Barn!" he cried. "Barn!" 

"What?" the white man said. "Barn?" 

"Yes!" the boy cried. "Barn!" 

"Catch him!" the white man shouted. 

But it was too late this time too. The Negro grasped his 
shirt, but the entire sleeve, rotten with washing, carried 
away, and he was out that door too and in the drive again, 
and had actually never ceased to run even while he was 
screaming into the white man's face. 

Behind him the white man was shouting, "My horse! 
Fetch my horse!" and he thought for an instant of cutting 
across the park and climbing the fence into the road, but he 
did not know the park nor how high the vine-massed fence 
might be and he dared not risk it. So he nn on down the 
drive, blood and breath roaring; presently he was in the 

24 The Country 

road again though he could not see it. He could not hear 
either: the galloping mare was almost upon him before he 
heard her, and even then he held his course, as if the very 
urgency of his wild grief and need must in a moment more 
find him wings, waiting until the ultimate instant to hurl 
himself aside and into the weed-choked roadside ditch as the 
horse thundered past and on, for an instant in furious sil- 
houette against the stars, the tranquil early summer night sky 
which, even before the shape of the horse and rider vanished, 
stained abruptly and violently upward: a long, swirling roar 
incredible and soundless, blotting the stars, and he springing 
up and into the road again, running again, knowing it was 
too late yet still running even after he heard the shot and, 
an instant later, two shots, pausing now without knowing he 
had ceased to run, crying "Pap! Pap!", running again before 
he knew he had begun to run, stumbling, tripping over some- 
thing and scrabbling up again without ceasing to run, look- 
ing backward over his shoulder at the glare as he got up, 
running on among the invisible trees, panting, sobbing, 
"Father! Father!" 

At midnight he was sitting on the crest of a hill. He did 
not know it was midnight and he did not know how far he 
had come. But there was no glare behind him now and he 
sat now, his back toward what he had called home for four 
days anyhow, his face toward the dark woods which he 
would enter when breath was strong again, small, shaking 
steadily in the chill darkness, hugging himself into the re- 
mainder of his thin, rotten shirt, the grief and despair now no 
longer terror and fear but just grief and despair. Father. 
My father, he thought. "He was brave!" he cried suddenly, 
aloud but not loud, no more than a whisper: "He was! He 
was in the war! He was in Colonel Sartoris' cav'ry!" not 
knowing that his father had gone to that war a private in 
the fine old European sense, wearing no uniform, admitting 

Barn Burning 25 

the authority of and giving fidelity to no man or army or 
flag, going to war as Malbrouck himself did: for booty it 
meant nothing and less than nothing to him if it were enemy 
booty or his own. 

The slow constellations wheeled on. It would be dawn 
and then sun-up after a while and he would be hungry. But 
that would be to-morrow and now he was only cold, and 
walking would cure that. His breathing was easier now and 
he decided to get up and go on, and then he found that he 
had been asleep because he knew it was almost dawn, the 
night almost over. He could tell that from the whippoor- 
wills. They were everywhere now among the dark trees 
below him, constant and inflectioned and ceaseless, so that, 
as the instant for giving over to the day birds drew nearer 
and nearer, there was no interval at all between them. He 
got up. He was a little stiff, but walking would cure that 
too as it would the cold, and soon there would be the sun. 
He went on down the hill, toward the dark woods within 
which the liquid silver voices of the birds called unceasing 
the rapid and urgent beating of the urgent and quiring 
heart of the late spring night. He did not look back. 

Shingles for the Lord 

PAP GOT UP a good hour before daylight and caught the 
mule and rid down to Killegrews' to borrow the froe and 
maul. He ought to been back with it in forty minutes. But 
the sun had rose and I had done milked and fed and was eat- 
ing my breakfast when he got back, with the mule not only 
in a lather but right on the edge of the thumps too. 

"Fox hunting," he said. "Fox hunting. A seventy-year-old 
man, with both feet and one knee, too, already in the grave, 
squatting all night on a hill and calling himself listening to a 
fox race that he couldn't even hear unless they had come 
right up onto the same log he was setting on and bayed into 
his ear trumpet. Give me my breakfast," he told maw. 
"Whitfield is standing there right this minute, straddle of that 
board tree with his watch in his hand." 

And he was. We rid on past the church, and there was not 
only Solon Quick's school-bus truck but Reverend Whit- 
field's old mare too. We tied the mule to a sapling and hung 
our dinner bucket on a limb, and with pap toting Killegrew's 
froe and maul and the wedges and me toting our ax, we went 
on to the board tree where Solon and Homer Bookwright, 
with their froes and mauls and axes and wedges, was setting 
on two upended cuts, and Whitfield was standing jest like 
pap said, in his boiled shirt and his black hat and pants and 
necktie, holding his watch in his hand. It was gold and in 

28 The Country 

the morning sunlight it looked big as a full-growed squash. 

"You're late/' he said. 

So pap told again about how Old Man Killegrew had been 
off fox hunting all night, and nobody at home to lend him the 
froe but Mrs. Killegrew and the cook. And naturally, the 
cook wasn't going to lend none of Killegrew's tools out, and 
Mrs. Killegrew was worser deaf than even Killegrew. If you 
was to run in and tell her the house was afire, she would jest 
keep on rocking and say she thought so, too, unless she began 
to holler back to the cook to turn the dogs loose before you 
could even open your mouth. 

"You could have gone yesterday and borrowed the froe," 
Whitfield said. "You have known for a month now that you 
had promised this one day out of a whole summer toward 
putting a roof on the house of God." 

"We ain't but two hours late," pap said. "I reckon the 
Lord will forgive it. He ain't interested in time, nohow. He's 
interested in salvation." 

Whitfield never even waited for pap to finish. It looked to 
me like he even got taller, thundering down at pap like a 
cloudburst. "He ain't interested in neither! Why should He 
be, when He owns them both? And why He should turn 
around for the poor, mizzling souls of men that can't even 
borrow tools in time to replace the shingles on His church, I 
don't know either. Maybe it's just because He made them. 
Maybe He just said to Himself: 'I made them; I don't know 
why. But since I did, I Godfrey, I'll roll My sleeves up and 
drag them into glory whether they will or no!' " 

But that wasn't here nor there either now, and I reckon 
he knowed it, jest like he knowed there wasn't going to 
be nothing atall here as long as he stayed. So he put the 
watch back into his pocket and motioned Solon and Homei 
up, and we all taken off our hats except him while he stood 
there with his face raised into the sun and his eyes shut and 

Shingles for the Lord 29 

his eyebrows looking like a big iron-gray caterpillar lying 
along the edge of a cliff. "Lord," he said, "make them good 
straight shingles to lay smooth, and let them split out easy; 
they're for You," and opened his eyes and looked at us again, 
mostly at pap, and went and untied his mare and dumb up 
slow and stiff, like old men do, and rid away. 

Pap put down the froe and maul and laid the three wedges 
in a neat row on the ground and taken up the ax. 

"Well, men," he said, "let's get started. We're already 

"Me and Homer ain't," Solon said. "We was here." This 
time him and Homer didn't set on the cuts. They squatted 
on their heels. Then I seen that Homer was whittling on a 
stick. I hadn't noticed it before. "I make it two hours and a 
little over," Solon said. "More or less." 

Pap was still about half stooped over, holding the ax. "It's 
nigher one," he said. "But call it two for the sake of the argu- 
ment. What about it?" 

"What argument?" Homer said. 

"All right," pap said. "Two hours then. What about it?" 

"Which is three man-hour units a hour, multiplied by two 
hours," Solon said. "Or a total of six work units." When the 
WPA first come to Yoknapatawpha County and started to 
giving out jobs and grub and mattresses, Solon went in to 
Jefferson to get on it. He would drive his school-bus truck 
the twenty-two miles in to town every morning and come 
back that night. He done that for almost a week before he 
found out he would not only have to sign his farm off into 
somebody else's name, he couldn't even own and run the 
school bus that he had built himself. So he come back that 
night and never went back no more, and since then hadn't 
nobody better mention WPA to him unless they aimed to 
fight, too, though every now and then he would turn up 
with something all figured down into work units like he done 
now. "Six units short." 

30 The Country 

"Four of which you and Homer could have already 
worked out while you was setting here waiting on me," pap 

"Except that we didn't/' Solon said. "We promised Whit- 
field two units of twelve three-unit hours toward getting 
some new shingles on the church roof. We been here ever 
since sunup, waiting for the third unit to show up, so we 
could start. You don't seem to kept up with these modern 
ideas about work that's been flooding and uplifting the coun- 
try in the last few years." 

"What modren ideas?" pap said. "I didn't know there was 
but one idea about work until it is done, it ain't done, and 
when it is done, it is." 

Homer made another long, steady whittle on the stick. His 
knife was sharp as a razor. 

Solon taken out his snuffbox and filled the top and tilted 
the snuff into his lip and offered the box to Homer, and 
Homer shaken his head, and Solon put the top back on the 
box and put the box back into his pocket. 

"So," pap said, "jest because I had to wait two hours for a 
old seventy-year man to get back from fox hunting that 
never had no more business setting out in the woods all night 
than he would 'a' had setting all night in a highway juke 
joint, we all three have got to come back here tomorrow to 
finish them two hours that you and Homer " 

"I ain't," Solon said. "I don't know about Homer. I prom- 
ised Whitfield one day. I was here at sunup to start it. When 
the sun goes down, I will consider I have done finished it." 

"I see," pap said. "I see. It's me that's got to come back. By 
myself. I got to break into a full morning to make up them 
two hours that you and Homer spent resting. I got to spend 
two hours of the next day making up for the two hours of the 
day before that you and Homer never even worked." 

"It's going to more than jest break into a morning," Solon 

Shingles for the Lord 3 1 

said. "It's going to wreck it. There's six units left over. Six 
one-man-hour units. Maybe you can work twice as fast as 
me and Homer put together and finish them in four hours, 
but I don't believe you can work three times as fast and finish 
in two." 

Pap was standing up now. He was breathing hard. We 
could hear him. "So," he said. "So." He swung the ax and 
druv the blade into one of the cuts and snatched it up onto 
its flat end, ready to split. "So I'm to be penalized a half a 
day of my own time, from my own work that's waiting for 
me at home right this minute, to do six hours more work than 
the work you fellers lacked two hours of even doing atall, 
purely and simply because I am jest a average hard-working 
farmer trying to do the best he can, instead of a durn froe- 
owning millionaire named Quick or Bookwright." 

They went to work then, splitting the cuts into bolts and 
riving the bolts into shingles for Tull and Snopes and the 
others that had promised for tomorrow to start nailing onto 
the church roof when they finished pulling the old shingles 
off. They set flat on the ground in a kind of circle, with 
their legs spraddled out on either side of the propped-up bolt, 
Solon and Homer working light and easy and steady as two 
clocks ticking, but pap making every lick of hisn like he was 
killing a moccasin. If he had jest swung the maul half as fast 
as he swung it hard, he would have rove as many shingles as 
Solon and Homer together, swinging the maul up over his 
head and holding it there for what looked like a whole min- 
ute sometimes and then swinging it down onto the blade of 
the froe, and not only a shingle flying off every lick but the 
froe going on into the ground clean up to the helve eye, and 
pap setting there wrenching at it slow and steady and hard, 
like he jest wished it would try to hang on a root or a rock 
and stay there. 

"Here, here," Solon said. "If you don't watch out you 

32 The Country 

won't have nothing to do neither during them six extra units 
tomorrow morning but rest." 

Pap never even looked up. "Get out of the way," he said. 
And Solon done it. If he hadn't moved the water bucket, pap 
would have split it, too, right on top of the bolt, and this 
time the whole shingle went whirling past Solon's shin jest 
like a scythe blade. 

"What you ought to do is to hire somebody to work out 
them extra overtime units," Solon said. 

"With what?" Pap said. "I ain't had no WPA experience 
in dickering over labor. Get out of the way." 

But Solon had already moved this time. Pap would have 
had to change his whole position or else made this one curve. 
So this one missed Solon, too, and pap set there wrenching 
the froe, slow and hard and steady, back out of the ground. 

"Maybe there's something else besides cash you might be 
able to trade with," Solon said. "You might use that dog." 

That was when pap actually stopped. I didn't know it my- 
self then either, but I found it out a good long time before 
Solon did. Pap set there with the maul up over his head and 
the blade of the froe set against the block for the next lick, 
looking up at Solon. "The dog?" he said. 

It was a kind of mixed hound, with a little bird dog and 
some collie and maybe a considerable of almost anything 
else, but it would ease through the woods without no more 
noise than a hant and pick up a squirrel's trail on the ground 
and bark jest once, unless it knowed you was where you 
could see it, and then tiptoe that trail out jest like a man and 
never make another sound until it treed, and only then when 
it knowed you hadn't kept in sight of it. It belonged to pap 
and Vernon Tull together. Will Varner give it to Tull as a 
puppy, and pap raised it for a half interest; me and him 
trained it and it slept in my bed with me until it got so big 
maw finally run it out of the house, and for the last six months 

Shingles for the Lord 33 

Solon had been trying to buy it. Him and Tull had agreed on 
two dollars for Tull's half of it, but Solon and pap was still 
six dollars apart on ourn, because pap said it was worth ten 
dollars of anybody's money and if Tull wasn't going to col- 
lect his full half of that, he was going to collect it for him. 

"So that's it," pap said. "Them things wasn't work units 
atall. They was dog units." 

"Jest a suggestion," Solon said. "Jest a friendly offer to 
keep them runaway shingles from breaking up your private 
business for six hours tomorrow morning. You sell me your 
half of that trick overgrown fyce and I'll finish these shingles 
for you." 

"Naturally including them six extra units of one dollars," 
pap said. 

"No, no," Solon said. "I'll pay you the same two dollars 
for your half of that dog that me and Tull agreed on for his 
half of it. You meet me here tomorrow morning with the 
dog and you can go on back home or wherever them urgent 
private affairs are located, and forget about that church 

For about ten seconds more, pap set there with the maul 
up over his head, looking at Solon. Then for about three sec- 
onds he wasn't looking at Solon or at nothing else. Then he 
was looking at Solon again. It was jest exactly like after about 
two and nine-tenths seconds he found out he wasn't looking 
at Solon, so he looked back at him as quick as he could. 
"Hah," he said. Then he began to laugh. It was laughing all 
right, because his mouth was open and that's what it sounded 
like. But it never went no further back than his teeth and it 
never come nowhere near reaching as high up as his eyes. 
And he never said "Look out" this time neither. He jest 
shifted fast on his hips and swung the maul down, the froe 
done already druv through the bolt and into the ground 

34 The Country 

while the shingle was still whirling off to slap Solon across 
the shki. 

Then they went back at it again. Up to this time I could 
tell pap's licks from Solon's and Homer's, even with my back 
turned, not because they was louder or steadier, because 
Solon and Homer worked steady, too, and the froe never 
made no especial noise jest going into the ground, but because 
they was so infrequent; you would hear five or six of Solon's 
and Homer's little polite chipping licks before you would 
hear pap's froe go "chug!" and know that another shingle 
had went whirling off somewhere. But from now on pap's 
sounded jest as light and quick and polite as Solon's or 
Homer's either, and, if anything, even a little faster, with the 
shingles piling up steadier than I could stack them, almost; 
until now there was going to be more than a plenty of them 
for Tull and the others to shingle with tomorrow, right on 
up to noon, when we heard Armstid's farm bell, and Solon 
laid his froe and maul down and looked at his watch too. And 
I wasn't so far away neither, but by the time I caught up with 
pap he had untied the mule from the sapling and was already 
on it. And maybe Solon and Homer thought they had pap, 
and maybe for a minute I did, too, but I jest wish they could 
have seen his face then. He reached our dinner bucket down 
from the limb and handed it to me. 

"Go on and eat," he said. "Don't wait for me. Him and 
his work units. If he wants to know where I went, tell him 
I forgot something and went home to get it. Tell him I had 
to go back home to get two spoons for us to eat our dinner 
with. No, don't tell him that. If he hears I went somewhere 
to get something I needed to use, even if it's jest a tool to eat 
with, he will refuse to believe I jest went home, for the reason 
that I don't own anything there that even I would borrow." 
He hauled the mule around and heeled him in the flank. 
Then he pulled up again. "And when I come back, no matter 

Shingles for the Lord 35 

what I say, don't pay no attention to it. No matter what hap- 
pens, don't you say nothing. Don't open your mouth a-tall, 
you hear?" 

Then he went on, and I went back to where Solon and 
Homer was setting on the running board of Solon's school- 
bus truck, eating, and sho enough Solon said jest exactly 
what pap said he was going to. 

"I admire his optimism, but he's mistaken. If it's something 
he needs that he can't use his natural hands and feet for, he's 
going somewhere else than jest his own house." 

We had jest went back to the shingles when pap rid up 
and got down and tied the mule back to the sapling and come 
and taken up the ax and snicked the blade into the next cut. 

"Well, men," he said, "I been thinking about it. I still don't 
think it's right, but I still ain't thought of anything to do 
about it. But somebody's got to make up for them two hours 
nobody worked this morning, and since you fellers are two 
to one against me, it looks like it's going to be me that makes 
them up. But I got work waiting at home for me tomorrow. 
I got corn that's crying out loud for me right now. Or maybe 
that's jest a lie too. Maybe the whole thing is, I don't mind 
admitting here in private that I been outfigured, but I be dog 
if I'm going to set here by myself tomorrow morning admit- 
ting it in public. Anyway, I ain't. So I'm going to trade with 
you, Solon. You can have the dog." 

Solon looked at pap. "I don't know as I want to trade 
now," he said. 

"I see," pap said. The ax was still stuck in the cut. He 
began to pump it up and down to back it out. 

"Wait," Solon said. "Put that durn ax down." But pap 
held the ax raised for the lick, looking at Solon and waiting. 
"You're swapping me half a dog for a half a day's work," 
Solon said 

36 The Country 

"Your half of the dog for that half a day's work you still 
owe on these shingles." 

u And the two dollars/' pap said. "That you and Tull 
agreed on. I sell you half the dog for two dollars, and you 
come back here tomorrow and finish the shingles. You give 
me the two dollars now, and I'll meet you here in the morn- 
ing with the dog, and you can show me the receipt from Tull 
for his half then." 

"Me and Tull have already agreed," Solon said. 

"All right," pap said. "Then you can pay Tull his two 
dollars and bring his receipt with you without no trouble." 

"Tull will be at the church tomorrow morning, pulling 
off them old shingles," Solon said. 

"All right," pap said. "Then it won't be no trouble at all 
for you to get a receipt from him. You can stop at the church 
when you pass. Tull ain't named Grier. He won't need to be 
off somewhere borrowing a crowbar." 

So Solon taken out his purse and paid pap the two dollars 
and they went back to work. And now it looked like they 
really was trying to finish that afternoon, not jest Solon, but 
even Homer, that didn't seem to be concerned in it nohow, 
and pap, that had already swapped a half a dog to get rid of 
whatever work Solon claimed would be left over. I quit try- 
ing to stay up with them; I jest stacked shingles. 

Then Solon laid his froe and maul down. "Well, men," he 
said, "I don't know what you fellers think, but I consider 
this a day." 

"All right," pap said. "You are the one to decide when to 
quit, since whatever elbow units you consider are going to be 
shy tomorrow will be yourn." 

"That's a fact," Solon said. "And since I am giving a day 
and a half to the church instead of jest a day, like I started 
out doing, I reckon I better get on home and tend to a little 
of my own work." He picked up his froe and maul and ax, 

Shingles for the Lord 37 

and went to his truck and stood waiting for Homer to come 
and get in. 

'Til be here in the morning with the dog," pap said. 

"Sholy," Solon said. It sounded like he had forgot about 
the dog, or that it wasn't no longer any importance. But he 
stood there again and looked hard and quiet at pap for about 
a second. "And a bill of sale from Tull for his half of it. As 
you say, it won't be no trouble a-tall to get that from him." 
Him and Homer got into the truck and he started the engine. 
You couldn't say jest what it was. It was almost like Solon 
was hurrying himself, so pap wouldn't have to make any ex- 
cuse or pretense toward doing or not doing anything. "I 
have always understood the fact that lightning don't have to 
hit twice is one of the reasons why they named it lightning. 
So getting lightning-struck is a mistake that might happen to 
any man. The mistake I seem to made is, I never realized in 
time that what I was looking at was a cloud. I'll see you in 
the morning." 

"With the dog," pap said. 

"Certainly," Solon said, again like it had slipped his mind 
completely. "With the dog." 

Then him and Homer drove off. Then pap got up. 

"What?" I said. "What? You swapped him your half of 
Tull's dog for that half a day's work tomorrow. Now what?" 

"Yes," pap said. "Only before that I had already swapped 
Tull a half a day's work pulling off them old shingles tomor- 
row, for Tull's half of that dog. Only we ain't going to wait 
until tomorrow. We're going to pull them shingles off to- 
night, and without no more racket about it than is necessary. 
I don't aim to have nothing on my mind tomorrow but 
watching Mr. Solon Work-Unit Quick trying to get a bill 
of sale for two dollars or ten dollars either on the other half 
of that dog. And we'll do it tonight. I don't want him jest to 
find out at sunup tomorrow that he is too late. I want him to 

38 The Country 

find out then that even when he laid down to sleep he was 
already too late." 

So we went back home and I fed and milked while pap 
went down to Killegrews' to carry the froe and maul back 
and to borrow a crowbar. But of all places in the world and 
doing what under the sun with it, Old Man Killegrew had 
went and lost his crowbar out of a boat into forty feet of 
water. And pap said how he come within a inch of going to 
Solon's and borrowing his crowbar out of pure poetic jus- 
tice, only Solon might have smelled the rat jest from the idea 
of the crowbar. So pap went to Armstid's and borrowed hisn 
and come back and we et supper and cleaned and filled the 
lantern while maw still tried to find out what we was up to 
that couldn't wait till morning. 

We left her still talking, even as far as the front gate, and 
come on back to the church, walking this time, with the rope 
and crowbar and a hammer for me, and the lantern still dark. 
Whitfield and Snopes was unloading a ladder from Snopes' 
wagon when we passed the church on the way home before 
dark, so all we had to do was to set the ladder up against the 
church. Then pap clumb up onto the roof with the lantern 
and pulled off shingles until he could hang the lantern inside 
behind the decking, where it could shine out through the 
cracks in the planks, but you couldn't see it unless you was 
passing in the road, and by that time anybody would 'a' al- 
ready heard us. Then I clumb up with the rope, and pap 
reached it through the decking and around a rafter and back 
and tied the ends around our waists, and we started. And we 
went at it. We had them old shingles jest raining down, me 
using the claw hammer and pap using the crowbar, working 
the bar under a whole patch of shingles at one time and then 
laying back on the bar like in one more lick or if the crowbar 
ever happened for one second to get a solid holt, he would 
tilt up that whole roof at one time like a hinged box lid. 

Shingles f0r the Lord 39 

That's exactly what he finally done. He laid back on the 
bar and this time it got a holt. It wasn't jest a patch of shin- 
gles, it was a whole section of decking, so that when he 
lunged back he snatched that whole section of roof from 
around the lantern like you would shuck a corn nubbin. The 
lantern was hanging on a nail. He never even moved the nail, 
he jest pulled the board off of it, so that it looked like for a 
whole minute I watched the lantern, and the crowbar, too, 
setting there in the empty air in a little mess of floating shin- 
gles, with the empty nail still sticking through the bail of the 
lantern, before the whole thing started down into the church. 
It hit the floor and bounced once. Then it hit the floor again, 
and this time the whole church jest blowed up into a pit of 
yellow jumping fire, with me and pap hanging over the edge 
of it on two ropes. 

I don't know what become of the rope nor how we got 
out of it. I don't remember climbing down. Jest pap yelling 
behind me and pushing me about halfway down the ladder 
and then throwing me the rest of the way by a handful of my 
overhalls, and then we was both on the ground, running for 
the water barrel. It set under the gutter spout at the side, and 
Armstid was there then; he had happened to go out to his lot 
about a hour back and seen the lantern on the church roof, 
and it stayed on his mind until finally he come up to see 
what was going on, and got there jest in time to stand yelling 
back and forth with pap across the water barrel. And I be- 
lieve we still would have put it out. Pap turned and squatted 
against the barrel and got a holt of it over his shoulder and 
stood up with that barrel that was almost full and run around 
the corner and up the steps of the church and hooked his 
toe on the top step and come down with the barrel busting 
on top of him and knocking him cold out as a wedge. 

So we had to drag him back first, and maw was there then, 
and Mrs. Armstid about the same time, and me and Armstid 

40 The Country 

run with the two fire buckets to the spring, and when we got 
back there was a plenty there, Whitfield, too, with more 
buckets, and we done what we could, but the spring was two 
hundred yards away and ten buckets emptied it and it taken 
five minutes to fill again, and so finally we all jest stood 
around where pap had come to again with a big cut on his 
head and watched it go. It was a old church, long dried out, 
and full of old colored-picture charts that Whitfield had ac- 
cumulated for more than fifty years, that the lantern had lit 
right in the middle of when it finally exploded. There was a 
special nail where he would keep a old long nightshirt he 
would wear to baptize in. I would use to watch it all the time 
during church and Sunday school, and me and the other boys 
would go past the church sometimes jest to peep in at it, 
because to a boy of ten it wasn't jest a cloth garment or even 
a iron armor; it was the old strong Archangel Michael his 
self, that had fit and strove and conquered sin for so long 
that it finally had the same contempt for the human beings 
that returned always to sin as hogs and dogs done that the old 
strong archangel his self must have had. 

For a long time it never burned, even after everything else 
inside had. We could watch it, hanging there among the fire, 
not like it had knowed in its time too much water to burn 
easy, but like it had strove and fit with the devil and all the 
hosts of hell too long to burn in jest a fire that Res Griet 
started, trying to beat Solon Quick out of half a dog. But at 
last it went, too, not in a hurry still, but jest all at once, kind 
of roaring right on up and out against the stars and the far 
dark spaces. And then there wasn't nothing but jest pap, 
drenched and groggy-looking, on the ground, with the rest 
of us around him, and Whitfield like always in his boiled shirt 
and his black hat and pants, standing there with his hat on, 
too, like he had strove too long to save what hadn't ought to 
been created in the first place, from the damnation it didn't 

Shingles for the Lord 41 

even want to escape, to bother to need to take his hat off in 
any presence. He looked around at us from under it; we was 
all there now, all that belonged to that church and used it to 
be born and marry and die from us and the Armstids and 
Tulls, and Bookwright and Quick and Snopes. 

"I was wrong," Whitfield said. "I told you we would meet 
here tomorrow to roof a church. We'll meet here in the 
morning to raise one." 

"Of course we got to have a church," pap said. "We're 
going to have one. And we're going to have it soon. But 
there's some of us done already give a day or so this week, 
at the cost of our own work. Which is right and just, and 
we're going to give more, and glad to. But I don't believe 
that the Lord " 

Whitfield let him finish. He never moved. He jest stood 
there until pap finally run down of his own accord and 
hushed and set there on the ground mostly not looking at 
maw, before Whitfield opened his mouth. 

"Not you," Whitfield said. "Arsonist." 

"Arsonist?" pap said. 

"Yes," Whitfield said. "If there is any pursuit in which 
you can engage without carrying flood and fire and destruc- 
tion and death behind you, do it. But not one hand shall you 
lay to this new house until you have proved to us that you 
are to be trusted again with the powers and capacities of a 
man." He looked about at us again. "Tull and Snopes and 
Armstid have already promised for tomorrow. I understand 
that Quick had another half day he intended " 

"I can give another day," Solon said. 

"I can give the rest of the week," Homer said. 

"I ain't rushed neither," Snopes said. 

"That will be enough to start with, then," Whitfield said. 
"It's late now. Let us all go home." 

He went first. He didn't look back once, at the church or 

42 The Country 

at us. He went to the old mare and clumb up slow and stiff 
and powerful, and was gone, and we went too, scattering. 
But I looked back at it. It was jest a shell now, with a red 
and fading core, and I had hated it at times and feared it at 
others, and I should have been glad. But there was something 
that even that fire hadn't even touched. Maybe that's all it 
was jest indestructibility, endurability that old man that 
could plan to build it back while its walls was still fire-fierce 
and then calmly turn his back and go away because he 
knowed that the men that never had nothing to give toward 
the new one but their work would be there at sunup tomor- 
row, and the day after that, and the day after that, too, as 
long as it was needed, to give that work to build it back 
again. So it hadn't gone a-tall; it didn't no more care for that 
little fire and flood than Whitfield's old baptizing gown had 
done. Then we was home. Maw had left so fast the lamp was 
still lit, and we could see pap now, still leaving a puddle 
where he stood, with a cut across the back of his head where 
the barrel had busted and the blood-streaked water soaking 
him to the waist. 

"Get them wet clothes off," maw said. 

"I don't know as I will or not," pap said. "I been publicly 
notified that I ain't fitten to associate with white folks, so 1 
publicly notify them same white folks and Methodists, too, 
not to try to associate with me, or the devil can have the 

But maw hadn't even listened. When she come back with a 
pan of water and a towel and the liniment bottle, pap was 
already in his nightshirt. 

"I don't want none of that neither," he said. "If my head 
wasn't worth busting, it ain't worth patching." But she never 
paid no mind to that neither. She washed his head off and 
dried it and put the bandage on and went out again, and pap 
went and got into bed. 

Shingles for the Lord 43: 

"Hand me my snuff; then you get out of here and stay out 
too/' he said. 

But before I could do that maw come back. She had a glass 
of hot toddy, and she went to the bed and stood there with 
it, and pap turned his head and looked at it. 

"What's that?" he said. 

But maw never answered, and then he set up in bed and 
drawed a long, shuddering breath we could hear it and 
after a minute he put out his hand for the toddy and set there 
holding it and drawing his breath, and then he taken a sip 
of it. 

"I Godfrey, if him and all of them put together think they 
can keep me from working on my own church like ary other 
man, he better be a good man to try it." He taken another 
sip of the toddy. Then he taken a long one. "Arsonist," he 
said. "Work units. Dog units. And now arsonist. I Godfrey,, 
what a day!" 

The Tall Men 

THEY PASSED THE DARK bulk of the cotton gin. Then they 
saw the lamplit house and the other car, the doctor's coupe, 
just stopping at the gate, and they could hear the hound 

"Here we are/' the old deputy marshal said. 

"What's that other car?" the younger man said, the stran- 
ger, the state draft investigator. 

"Doctor Schofield's," the marshal said. "Lee McCallum 
asked me to send him out when I telephoned we were com- 

"You mean you warned them?" the investigator said. 
"You telephoned ahead that I was coming out with a war- 
rant for these two evaders? Is this how you carry out the 
orders of the United States Government?" 

The marshal was a lean, clean old man who chewed to- 
bacco, who had been born and lived in the county all his life. 

"I understood all you wanted was to arrest these two 
McCallum boys and bring them back to town," he said. 

"It was!" the investigator said. "And now you have 
warned them, given them a chance to run. Possibly put the 
Government to the expense of hunting them down with 
troops. Have you forgotten that you are under a bond your- 

"I ain't forgot it," the marshal said. "And ever since we 

46 The Country 

left Jefferson I been trying to tell you something for you 
not to forget. But I reckon it will take these McCallums to 
impress that on you. . . . Pull in behind the other car. We'll 
try to find out first just how sick whoever it is that is sick 


The investigator drew up behind the other car and 
switched off and blacked out his lights. "These people," he 
said. Then he thought, But this doddering, tobacco-chewing 
old man is one of them, too, despite the honor and pride of 
his office, which should have made him different. So he 
didn't speak it aloud, removing the keys and getting out of 
the car, and then locking the car itself, rolling the windows 
up first, thinking, These people who lie about and conceal 
the ownership of land and property in order to hold relief 
jobs which they have no intention of performing, standing 
on their constitutional rights against having to work, who 
jeopardize the very job itself through petty and transparent 
subterfuge to acquire a free mattress which they intend to 
attempt to sell; who would relinquish even the job, if by so 
doing they could receive free food and a place, any rathole, 
in town to sleep in; who, as farmers, make false statements 
to get seed loans which they will later misuse, and then react 
in loud vituperative outrage and astonishment when caught 
at it. And then, when at long last a suffering and threatened 
Government asks one thing of them in return, one thing 
simply, which is to put their names down on a selective- 
service list, they refuse to do it. 

The old marshal had gone on. The investigator followed, 
through a stout paintless gate in a picket fence, up a broad 
brick walk between two rows of old shabby cedars, toward 
the rambling and likewise paintless sprawl of the two-story 
house in the open hall of which the soft lamplight glowed 
and the lower story of which, as the investigator now per- 
ceived, was of logs. 

The Tall Men 47 

He saw a hall full of soft lamplight beyond a stout paint- 
less gallery running across the log front, from beneath which 
the same dog which they had heard, a big hound, came 
booming again, to stand foursquare facing them in the walk, 
bellowing, until a man's voice spoke to it from the house. 
He followed the marshal up the steps onto the gallery. Then 
he saw the man standing in the door, waiting for them to 
approach a man of about forty-five, not tall, but blocky, 
with a brown, still face and horseman's hands, who looked 
at him once, brief and hard, and then no more, speaking to 
the marshal, "Howdy, Mr. Gombault. Come in." 

"Howdy, Rafe," the marshal said. "Who's sick?" 

"Buddy," the other said. "Slipped and caught his leg in 
the hammer mill this afternoon." 

"Is it bad?" the marshal said. 

"It looks bad to me," the other said. "That's why we sent 
for the doctor instead of bringing him in to town. We 
couldn't get the bleeding stopped." 

"I'm sorry to hear that," the marshal said. "This is Mr. 
Pearson." Once more the investigator found the other look- 
ing at him, the brown eyes still, courteous enough in the 
brown face, the hand he offered hard enough, but the clasp 
quite limp, quite cold. The marshal was still speaking. "From 
Jackson. From the draft board." Then he said, and the in- 
vestigator could discern no change whatever in his tone: 
"He's got a warrant for the boys." 

The investigator could discern no change whatever any- 
where. The limp hard hand merely withdrew from his, the 
still face now looking at the marshal. "You mean we have 
declared war?" 

"No," the marshal said. 

"That's not the question, Mr. McCallum," the investi- 
gator said. "All required of them was to register. Their num- 
bers might not even be drawn this time; under the law of 

48 The Country 

averages, they probably would not be. But they refused 
failed, anyway to register." 

"I see," the other said. He was not looking at the investi- 
gator. The investigator couldn't tell certainly if he was even 
looking at the marshal, although he spoke to him, "You 
want to see Buddy? The doctor's with him now." 

"Wait," the investigator said. "I'm sorry about your 

brother's accident, but I " The marshal glanced back 

at him for a moment, his shaggy gray brows beetling, with 
something at once courteous yet a little impatient about the 
glance, so that during the instant the investigator sensed 
from the old marshal the same quality which had been in 
the other's brief look. The investigator was a man of better 
than average intelligence; he was already becoming aware 
of something a little different here from what he had ex- 
pected. But he had been in relief work in the state several 
years, dealing almost exclusively with country people, so he 
still believed he knew them. So he looked at the old marshal, 
thinking, Yes. The same sort of people, despite the office, 
the authority and responsibility ivhich should have changed 
him. Thinking again, These people. These people. "I in- 
tend to take the night train back to Jackson," he said. "My 
reservation is already made. Serve the warrant and we 
will " 

"Come along," the old marshal said. "We are going to 
have plenty of time." 

So he followed there was nothing else to do fuming 
and seething, attempting in the short length of the hall to 
regain control of himself in order to control the situation, 
because he realized now that if the situation were controlled, 
it would devolve upon him to control it; that if their de- 
parture with their prisoners were expedited, it must be him- 
self and not the old marshal who would expedite it. He had 
been right. The doddering old officer was not only at bot- 

The Tall Men 49 

torn one of these people, he had apparently been corrupted 
anew to his old, inherent, shiftless sloth and unreliability 
merely by entering the house. So he followed in turn, down 
the hall and into a bedroom; whereupon he looked about 
him not only with amazement but with something very like 
terror. The room was a big room, with a bare unpainted 
floor, and besides the bed, it contained only a chair or two 
and one other piece of old-fashioned furniture. Yet to the 
investigator it seemed so filled with tremendous men cast 
in the same mold as the man who had met them that the 
very walls themselves must bulge. Yet they were not big, 
not tall, and it was not vitality, exuberance, because they 
made no sound, merely looking quietly at him where he 
stood in the door, with faces bearing an almost identical 
stamp of kinship a thin, almost frail old man of about 
seventy, slightly taller than the others; a second one, white- 
haired, too, but otherwise identical with the man who had 
met them at the door; a third one about the same age as 
the man who had met them, but with something delicate in 
his face and something tragic and dark and wild in the same 
dark eyes; the two absolutely identical blue-eyed youths; 
and lastly the blue-eyed man on the bed over which the 
doctor, who might have been any city doctor, in his neat 
city suit, leaned all of them turning to look quietly at him 
and the marshal as they entered. And he saw, past the doctor, 
the slit trousers of the man on the bed and the exposed, 
bloody, mangled leg, and he turned sick, stopping just in- 
side the door under that quiet, steady regard while the 
marshal went up to the man who lay on the bed, smoking 
a cob pipe, a big, old-fashioned, wicker-covered demijohn, 
such as the investigator's grandfather had kept his whisky 
in, on the table beside him. 

"Well, Buddy," the marshal said, "this is bad." 

"Ah, it was my own damn fault," the man on the bed 

50 The Country 

said. "Stuart kept warning me about that frame I was using." 

"That's correct," the second old one said. 

Still the others said nothing. They just looked steadily and 
quietly at the investigator until the marshal turned slightly 
and said, "This is Mr. Pearson. From Jackson. He's got a 
warrant for the boys." 

Then the man on the bed said, "What for?" 

"That draft business, Buddy," the marshal said. 

"We're not at war now," the man on the bed said. 

"No," the marshal said. "It's that new law. They didn't 

"What are you going to do with them?" 

"It's a warrant, Buddy. Swore out." 

"That means jail." 

"It's a warrant," the old marshal said. Then the investi- 
gator saw that the man on the bed was watching him, puff- 
ing steadily at the pipe. 

"Pour me some whisky, Jackson," he said. 

"No," the doctor said. "He's had too much already." 

"Pour me some whisky, Jackson," the man on the bed 
said. He puffed steadily at the pipe, looking at the investi- 
gator. "You come from the Government?" he said. 

"Yes," the investigator said. "They should have registered. 

That's all required of them yet. They did not " His 

voice ceased, while the seven pairs of eyes contemplated him, 
and the man on the bed puffed steadily. 

"We would have still been here," the man on the bed 
said. "We wasn't going to run." He turned his head. The 
two youths were standing side by side at the foot of the bed. 
"Anse, Lucius," he said. 

To the investigator it sounded as if they answered as one, 
"Yes, father." 

"This gentleman has come all the way from Jackson to 

The Tall Men 51 

say the Government is ready for you. I reckon the quickest 
place to enlist will be Memphis. Go upstairs and pack." 

The investigator started, moved forward. "Wait!" he 

But Jackson, the eldest, had forestalled him. He said, 
"Wait," also, and now they were not looking at the investi- 
gator. They were looking at the doctor. 

"What about his leg?" Jackson said. 

"Look at it," the doctor said. "He almost amputated it 
himself. It won't wait. And he can't be moved now. I'll 
need my nurse to help me, and some ether, provided he 
hasn't had too much whisky to stand the anesthetic too. 
One of you can drive to town in my car. I'll telephone " 

"Ether?" the man on the bed said. "What for? You just 
said yourself it's pretty near off now. I could whet up one 
of Jackson's butcher knives and finish it myself, with another 
drink or two. Go on. Finish it." 

"You couldn't stand any more shock," the doctor said. 
"This is whisky talking now." 

"Shucks," the other said. "One day in France we was 
running through a wheat field and I saw the machine gun, 
coming across the wheat, and I tried to jump it like you 
would jump a fence rail somebody was swinging at your 
middle, only I never made it. And I was on the ground then, 
and along toward dark that begun to hurt, only about that 
time something went whang on the back of my helmet, like 
when you hit a anvil, so I never knowed nothing else until 
I woke up. There was a heap of us racked up along a bank 
outside a field dressing station, only it took a long time for 
the doctor to get around to all of us, and by that time it 
was hurting bad. This here ain't hurt none to speak of since 
I got a-holt of this johnny-jug. You go on and finish it. If 
it's help you need, Stuart and Rafe will help you. . . . Pour 
me a drink, Jackson." 

52 The Country 

This time the doctor raised the demijohn and examined 
the level of the liquor. "There's a good quart gone," he said. 
"If you've drunk a quart of whisky since four o'clock, I 
doubt if you could stand the anesthetic. Do you think you 
could stand it if I finished it now?" 

"Yes, finish it. I've ruined it; I want to get shut of it." 

The doctor looked about at the others, at the still, identical 
faces watching him. "If I had him in town, in the hospital, 
with a nurse to watch him, I'd probably wait until he got 
over this first shock and got the whisky out of his system. 
But he can't be moved now, and I can't stop the bleeding 
like this, and even if I had ether or a local anesthetic " 

"Shucks," the man on the bed said. "God never made no 
better local nor general comfort or anesthetic neither than 
what's in this johnny-jug. And this ain't Jackson's leg nor 
Stuart's nor Rafe's nor Lee's. It's mine. I done started it; I 
reckon I can finish cutting it off any way I want to." 

But the doctor was still looking at Jackson. "Well, Mr. 
McCallum?" he said. "You're the oldest." 

But it was Stuart who answered. "Yes," he said. "Finish 
it. What do you want? Hot water, I reckon." 

"Yes," the doctor said. "Some clean sheets. Have you got 
a big table you can move in here?" 

"The kitchen table," the man who had met them at the 
door said. "Me and the boys " 

"Wait," the man on the bed said. "The boys won't have 
time to help you." He looked at them again. "Anse, Lucius," 
he said. 

Again it seemed to the investigator that they answered as 
one, "Yes, father." 

"This gentleman yonder is beginning to look impatient. 
You better start. Come to think of it, you won't need to 
pack. You will have uniforms in a day or two. Take the 
truck. There won't be nobody to drive you to Memphis and 

The Tall Men 53 

bring the truck back, so you can leave it at the Gayoso 
Feed Company until we can send for it. I'd like for you to 
enlist into the old Sixth Infantry, where I used to be. But I 
reckon that's too much to hope, and you'll just have to 
chance where they send you. But it likely won't matter, 
once you are in. The Government done right by me in my 
day, and it will do right by you. You just enlist wherever 
they want to send you, need you, and obey your sergeants 
and officers until you find out how to be soldiers. Obey 
them, but remember your name and don't take nothing from 
no man. You can go now." 

"Wait!" the investigator cried again; again he started, 
moved forward into the center of the room. "I protest this! 
I'm sorry about Mr. McCallum's accident. I'm sorry about 
the whole business. But it's out of my hands and out of his 
hands now. This charge, failure to register according to law, 
has been made and the warrant issued. It cannot be evaded 
this way. The course of the action must be completed before 
any other step can be taken. They should have thought of 
this when these boys failed to register. If Mr. Gombault 
refuses to serve this warrant, I will serve it myself and take 
these men back to Jefferson with me to answer this charge 
as made. And I must warn Mr. Gombault that he will be 
cited for contempt!" 

The old marshal turned, his shaggy eyebrows beetling 
again, speaking down to the investigator as if he were a 
child, "Ain't you found out yet that me or you neither ain't 
going nowhere for a while?" 

"What?" the investigator cried. He looked about at the 
grave faces once more contemplating him with that remote 
and speculative regard. "Am I being threatened?" he cried. 

"Ain't anybody paying any attention to you at all," the 
marshal said. "Now you just be quiet for a while, and you 
will be all right, and after a while we can go back to town." 

54 The Country 

So he stopped again and stood while the grave, contem- 
plative faces freed him once more of that impersonal and 
unbearable regard, and saw the two youths approach the 
bed and bend down in turn and kiss their father on the 
mouth, and then turn as one and leave the room, passing 
him without even looking at him. And sitting in the lamplit 
hall beside the old marshal, the bedroom door closed now, 
he heard the truck start up and back and turn and go down 
the road, the sound of it dying away, ceasing, leaving the 
Still, hot night the Mississippi Indian summer, which had 
already outlasted half of November filled with the loud 
last shrilling of the summer's cicadas, as though they, too, 
were aware of the imminent season of cold weather and of 

"I remember old Anse," the marshal said pleasantly, chat- 
tily, in that tone in which an adult addresses a strange child. 
"He's been dead fifteen-sixteen years now. He was about 
sixteen when the old war broke out, and he walked all the 
way to Virginia to get into it. He could have enlisted and 
fought right here at home, but his ma was a Carter, so 
wouldn't nothing do him but to go all the way back to 
Virginia to do his fighting, even though he hadn't never seen 
Virginia before himself; walked all the way back to a land 
he hadn't never even seen before and enlisted in Stonewall 
Jackson's army and stayed in it all through the Valley, and 
right up to Chancellorsville, where them Carolina boys shot 
Jackson by mistake, and right on up to that morning in 
'Sixty-five when Sheridan's cavalry blocked the road from 
Appomattox to the Valley, where they might have got away 
again. And he walked back to Mississippi with just about 
what he had carried away with him when he left, and he 
got married and built the first story of this house this here 
log story we're in right now and started getting them boys 
Jackson and Stuart and Raphael and Lee and Buddy. 

The Tall Men 55 

"Buddy come along late, late enough to be in the other 
war, in France in it. You heard him in there. He brought 
back two medals, an American medal and a French one, and 
no man knows till yet how he got them, just what he done. 
I don't believe he even told Jackson and Stuart and them. 
He hadn't hardly got back home, with them numbers on 
his uniform and the wound stripes and them two medals, 
before he had found him a girl, found her right off, and a year 
later them twin boys was born, the livin', spittin' image of 
old Anse McCallum. If old Anse had just been about seventy- 
five years younger, the three of them might have been 
thriblets. I remember them two little critters exactly alike, 
and wild as spikehorn bucks, running around here day and 
night both with a pack of coon dogs until they got big 
enough to help Buddy and Stuart and Lee with the farm 
and the gin, and Rafe with the horses and mules, when he 
would breed and raise and train them and take them to 
Memphis to sell, right on up to three, four years back, when 
they went to the agricultural college for a year to learn 
more about whiteface cattle. 

"That was after Buddy and them had quit raising cotton. 
I remember that too. It was when the Government first 
begun to interfere with how a man farmed his own land, 
raised his cotton. Stabilizing the price, using up the surplus, 
they called it, giving a man advice and help, whether he 
wanted it or not. You may have noticed them boys in yon- 
der tonight; curious folks almost, you might call them. That 
first year, when county agents was trying to explain the 
new system to farmers, the agent come out here and tried 
to explain it to Buddy and Lee and Stuart, explaining how 
they would cut down the crop, but that the Government 
would pay farmers the difference, and so they would ac- 
tually be better off than trying to farm by themselves. 

" 'Why, we're much obliged,' Buddy says. 'But we don't 

56 The Country 

need no help. We'll just make the cotton like we always 
done; if we can't make a crop of it, that will just be our look- 
out and our loss, and we'll try again.' 

"So they wouldn't sign no papers nor no cards nor noth- 
ing. They just went on and made the cotton like old Anse 
had taught them to; it was like they just couldn't believe 
that the Government aimed to help a man whether he 
wanted help or not, aimed to interfere with how much of 
anything he could make by hard work on his own land, 
making the crop and ginning it right here in their own gin, 
like they had always done, and hauling it to town to sell, 
hauling it all the way into Jefferson before they found out 
they couldn't sell it because, in the first place, they had 
made too much of it and, in the second place, they never 
had no card to sell what they would have been allowed. So 
they hauled it back. The gin wouldn't hold all of it, so they 
put some of it under Raf e's mule shed and they put the rest 
of it right here in the hall where we are setting now, where 
they would have to walk around it all winter and keep them- 
selves reminded to be sho and fill out that card next time. 

"Only next year they didn't fill out no papers neither. It 
was like they still couldn't believe it, still believed in the 
freedom and liberty to make or break according to a man's 
fitness and will to work, guaranteed by the Government 
that old Anse had tried to tear in two once and failed, and 
admitted in good faith he had failed and taken the conse- 
quences, and that had give Buddy a medal and taken care 
of him when he was far away from home in a strange land 
and hurt. 

"So they made that second crop. And they couldn't sell it 
to nobody neither because they never had no cards. This 
time they built a special shed to put it under, and I remember 
how in that second winter Buddy come to town one day to 
see Lawyer Gavin Stevens. Not for legal advice how to sue 

The Tall Men 57 

the Government or somebody into buying the cotton, even 
if they never had no card for it, but just to find out why. 'I 
was for going ahead and signing up for it,' Buddy says. 'If 
that's going to be the new rule. But we talked it over, and 
Jackson ain't no farmer, but he knowed father longer than 
the rest of us, and he said father would have said no, and I 
reckon now he would have been right.' 

"So they didn't raise any more cotton; they had a plenty 
of it to last a while twenty-two bales, I think it was. That 
was when they went into whitef ace cattle, putting old Anse's 
cotton land into pasture, because that's what he would have 
wanted them to do if the only way they could raise cotton 
was by the Government telling them how much they could 
raise and how much they could sell it for, and where, and 
when, and then pay them for not doing the work they didn't 
do. Only even when they didn't raise cotton, every year the 
county agent's young fellow would come out to measure 
the pasture crops they planted so he could pay them for that, 
even if they never had no not-cotton to be paid for. Except 
that he never measured no crop on this place. i You're wel- 
come to look at what we are doing,' Buddy says. 'But don't 
draw it down on your map.' 

" 'But you can get money for this,' the young fellow says. 
'The Government wants to pay you for planting all this.' 

" 'We are aiming to get money for it,' Buddy says. 'When 
we can't, we will try something else. But not from the Gov- 
ernment. Give that to them that want to take it. We can 
make out.' 

"And that's about all. Them twenty-two bales of orphan 
cotton are down yonder in the gin right now, because 
there's room for it in the gin now because they ain't using 
the gin no more. And them boys grew up and went off a year 
to the agricultural college to learn right about whiteface 
cattle, and then come back to the rest of them these here 

58 The Country 

curious folks living off here to themselves, with the rest of 
the world all full of pretty neon lights burning night and 
day both, and easy, quick money scattering itself around 
everywhere for any man to grab a little, and every man with 
a shiny new automobile already wore out and throwed away 
and the new one delivered before the first one was even paid 
for, and everywhere a fine loud grabble and snatch of AAA 
and WPA and a dozen other three-letter reasons for a man 
not to work. Then this here draft comes along, and these 
curious folks ain't got around to signing that neither, and 
you come all the way up from Jackson with your paper all 
signed and regular, and we come out here, and after a while 
we can go back to town. A man gets around, don't he?" 

"Yes," the investigator said. "Do you suppose we can go 
back to town now?" 

"No," the marshal told him in that same kindly tone, "not 
just yet. But we can leave after a while. Of course you will 
miss your train. But there will be another one tomorrow." 

He rose, though the investigator had heard nothing. The 
investigator watched him go down the hall and open the bed- 
room door and enter and close it behind him. The investiga- 
tor sat quietly, listening to the night sounds and looking at 
the closed door until it opened presently and the marshal 
came back, carrying something in a bloody sheet, carrying it 

"Here," he said. "Hold it a mihute." 

"It's bloody," the investigator said. 

"That's all right," the marshal said. "We can wash when 
we get through." So the investigator took the bundle and 
stood holding it while he watched the old marshal go back 
down the hall and on through it and vanish and return pres- 
ently with a lighted lantern and a shovel. "Come along," he 
said. "We're pretty near through now." 

The investigator followed him out of the house and across 

The Tall Men 59 

the yard, carrying gingerly the bloody, shattered, heavy 
bundle in which it still seemed to him he could feel some 
warmth of life, the marshal striding on ahead, the lantern 
swinging against his leg, the shadow of his striding scissoring 
and enormous along the earth, his voice still coming back 
over his shoulder, chatty and cheerful, "Yes, sir. A man gets 
around and he sees a heap; a heap of folks in a heap of situa- 
tions. The trouble is, we done got into the habit of confus- 
ing the situations with the folks. Take yourself, now," he 
said in that same kindly tone, chatty and easy; "you mean 
all right. You just went and got yourself all fogged up with 
rules and regulations. That's our trouble. We done invented 
ourselves so many alphabets and rules and recipes that we 
can't see anything else; if what we see can't be fitted to an 
alphabet or a rule, we are lost. We have come to be like 
critters doctor folks might have created in laboratories, that 
have learned how to slip off their bones and guts and still 
live, still be kept alive indefinite and forever maybe even 
without even knowing the bones and the guts are gone. We 
have slipped our backbone; we have about decided a man 
don't need a backbone any more; to have one is old-fashioned. 
But the groove where the backbone used to be is still there, 
and the backbone has been kept alive, too, and someday 
we're going to slip back onto it. I don't know just when nor 
just how much of a wrench it will take to teach us, but 

They had left the yard now. They were mounting a slope; 
ahead of them the investigator could see another clump of 
cedars, a small clump, somehow shaggily formal against the 
starred sky. The marshal entered it and stopped and set the 
lantern down and, following with the bundle, the investiga- 
tor saw a small rectangle of earth enclosed by a low brick 
coping. Then he saw the two graves, or the headstones 
two plain granite slabs set upright in the earth. 

60 The Country 

"Old Anse and Mrs. Anse," the marshal said. "Buddy's 
wife wanted to be buried with her folks. I reckon she would 
have been right lonesome up here with just McCallums. Now, 
let's see." He stood for a moment, his chin in his hand; to the 
investigator he looked exactly like an old lady trying to de- 
cide where to set out a shrub. "They was to run from left to 
right, beginning with Jackson. But after the boys was born^ 
Jackson and Stuart was to come up here by their pa and ma t 
so Buddy could move up some and make room. So he will be 
about here." He moved the lantern nearer and took up the 
shovel. Then he saw the investigator still holding the bundle. 
"Set it down," he said. "I got to dig first." 

"I'll hold it," the investigator said. 

"Nonsense, put it down." the marshal said. "Buddy won't 

So the investigator put the bundle down on the brick cop- 
ing and the marshal began to dig, skillfully and rapidly, still 
talking in that cheerful, interminable voice, "Yes, sir. We 
done forgot about folks. Life has done got cheap, and life 
ain't cheap. Life's a pretty durn valuable thing. I don't mean 
just getting along from one WPA relief check to the next 
one, but honor and pride and discipline that make a man 
worth preserving, make him of any value. That's what we 
got to learn again. Maybe it takes trouble, bad trouble, to 
teach it back to us; maybe it was the walking to Virginia 
because that's where his ma come from, and losing a war and 
then walking back, that taught it to old Anse. Anyway, he 
seems to learned it, and to learned it good enough to bequeath 
it to his boys. Did you notice how all Buddy had to do was 
to tell them boys of his it was time to go, because the Gov- 
ernment had sent them word? And how they told him 
good-by? Crowned men kissing one another without hiding 
and without shame. Maybe that's what I am trying to say. 
, . . There." he said. "That's big enough." 

The Tall Men 61 

He moved quickly, easily; before the investigator could 
stir, he had lifted the bundle into the narrow trench and was 
covering it, covering it as rapidly as he had dug, smoothing 
the earth over it with the shovel. Then he stood up and raised 
the lantern a tall, lean old man, breathing easily and lightly. 

"I reckon we can go back to town now," he said. 

A Bear Hunt 

RATLIFF is TELLING THIS. He is a sewing-machine agent; time 
was when he traveled about our county in a light, strong 
buckboard drawn by a sturdy, wiry, mismatched team of 
horses; now he uses a model T Ford, which also carries his 
demonstrator machine in a tin box on the rear, shaped like a 
dog kennel and painted to resemble a house. 

Ratliff may be seen anywhere without surprise the only 
man present at the bazaars and sewing bees of farmers' wives; 
moving among both men and women at all-day singings at 
country churches, and singing, too, in a pleasant barytone. 
He was even at this bear hunt of which he speaks, at the 
annual hunting camp of Major de Spain in the river bottom 
twenty miles from town, even though there was no one 
there to whom he might possibly have sold a machine, since 
Mrs. de Spain doubtless already owned one, unless she had 
given it to one of her married daughters, and the other man 
the man called Lucius Provine with whom he became in- 
volved, to the violent detriment of his face and other mem- 
bers, could not have bought one for his wife even if he 
would, without Ratliff sold it to him on indefinite credit. 

Provine is also a native of the county. But he is forty now 
and most of his teeth are gone, and it is years now since he 
and his dead brother and another dead and forgotten con- 
temporary named Jack Bonds were known as the Provine 

64 The Country 

gang and terrorized our quiet town after the unimaginative 
fashion of wild youth by letting off pistols on the square late 
Saturday nights or galloping their horses down scurrying 
and screaming lanes of churchgoing ladies on Sunday morn- 
ing. Younger citizens of the town do not know him at all 
save as a tall, apparently strong and healthy man who loafs 
in a brooding, saturnine fashion wherever he will be allowed, 
never exactly accepted by any group, and who makes no 
effort whatever to support his wife and three children. 

There are other men among us now whose families are in 
want; men who, perhaps, would not work anyway, but who 
now, since the last few years, cannot find work. These all 
attain and hold to a certain respectability by acting as agents 
for the manufacturers of minor articles like soap and men's 
toilet accessories and kitchen objects, being seen constantly 
about the square and the streets carrying small black sample 
cases. One day, to our surprise, Provine also appeared with 
such a case, though within less than a week the town officers 
discovered that it contained whisky in pint bottles. Major 
de Spain extricated him somehow, as it was Major de Spain 
who supported his family by eking out the money which 
Mrs. Provine earned by sewing and such perhaps as a 
Roman gesture of salute and farewell to the bright figure 
which Provine had been before time whipped him. 

For there are older men who remember the Butch he has 
even lost somewhere in his shabby past the lusty dare-devil- 
try of the nickname Provine of twenty years ago; that 
youth without humor, yet with some driving, inarticulate 
zest for breathing which has long since burned out of him, 
who performed in a fine frenzy, which was, perhaps, mostly 
alcohol, certain outrageous and spontaneous deeds, one of 
which was the Negro-picnic business. The picnic was at a 
Negro church a few miles from town. In the midst of it, the 
two Provines and Jack Bonds, returning from a dance in the 

A Bear Hunt 65 

country, rode up with drawn pistols and freshly lit cigars; 
and taking the Negro men one by one, held the burning cigar 
ends to the popular celluloid collars of the day, leaving each 
victim's neck ringed with an abrupt and faint and painless 
ling of carbon. This is he of whom Ratliff is talking. 

But there is one thing more which must be told here in 
order to set the stage for Ratliff. Five miles farther down the 
river from Major de Spain's camp, and in an even wilder part 
of the river's jungle of cane and gum and pin oak, there is an 
Indian mound. Aboriginal, it rises profoundly and darkly 
enigmatic, the only elevation of any kind in the wild, flat 
jungle of river bottom. Even to some of us children though 
we were, yet we were descended of literate, town-bred peo- 
ple it possessed inferences of secret and violent blood, of 
savage and sudden destruction, as though the yells and hatch- 
ets which we associated with Indians through the hidden and 
secret dime novels which we passed among ourselves were 
but trivial and momentary manifestations of what dark 
power still dwelled or lurked there, sinister, a little sar- 
donic, like a dark and nameless beast lightly and lazily slum- 
bering with bloody jaws this, perhaps, due to the fact that 
a remnant of a once powerful clan of the Chickasaw tribe 
still lived beside it under Government protection. They now 
had American names and they lived as the sparse white peo- 
ple who surrounded them in turn lived. 

Yet we never saw them, since they never came to town, 
having their own settlement and store. When we grew older 
we realized that they were no wilder or more illiterate than 
the white people, and that probably their greatest deviation 
from the norm and this, in our country, no especial devia- 
tion was the fact that they were a little better than suspect 
to manufacture moonshine whisky back in the swamps. Yet 
to us, as children, they were a little fabulous, their swamp- 
hidden lives inextricable from the life of the dark mound, 

66 The Country 

which some of us had never seen, yet of which we had all 
heard, as though they had been set by the dark powers to be. 
guardians of it. 

As I said, some of us had never seen the mound, yet all of 
us had heard of it, talked of it as boys will. It was as much a 
part of our lives and background as the land itself, as the lost 
Civil War and Sherman's march, or that there were Negroes 
among us living in economic competition who bore our 
family names; only more immediate, more potential and alive. 
When I was fifteen, a companion and I, on a dare, went into 
the mound one day just at sunset. We saw some of those In- 
dians for the first time; we got directions from them and 
reached the top of the mound just as the sun set. We had 
camping equipment with us, but we made no fire. We didn't 
even make down our beds. We just sat side by side on that 
mound until it became light enough to find our way back to 
the road. We didn't talk. When we looked at each other in 
the gray dawn, our faces were gray, too, quiet, very grave. 
When we reached town again, we didn't talk either. We just 
parted and went home and went to bed. That's what we 
thought, felt, about the mound. We were children, it is true, 
yet we were descendants of people who read books and who 
were or should have been beyond superstition and im- 
pervious to mindless fear. 

Now Ratliff tells about Lucius Provine and his hiccup. 

When I got back to town, the first fellow I met says, 
"What happened to your face, Ratliff? Was De Spain using 
you in place of his bear hounds?" 

"No, boys," I says. "Hit was a cattymount." 

"What was you trying to do to hit, Ratliff?" a fellow says. 

"Boys," I says, "be dog if I know." 

And that was the truth. Hit was a good while after they 
had done hauled Luke Provine offen me that I found that 

A Bear Hunt 67 

out. Because I never knowed who Old Man Ash was, no 
more than Luke did. I just knowed that he was Major's nig- 
ger, a-helping around camp. All I knowed, when the whole 
thing started, was what I thought I was aiming to do to 
maybe help Luke sho enough, or maybe at the outside to just 
have a little fun with him without hurting him, or even 
maybe to do Major a little favor by getting Luke outen camp 
for a while. And then hyer hit is about midnight and that 
durn fellow comes swurging outen the woods wild as a 
skeered deer, and runs in where they are setting at the poker 
game, and I says, "Well, you ought to be satisfied. You done 
run clean out from under them." And he stopped dead still 
and give me a kind of glare of wild astonishment; he didn't 
even know that they had quit; and then he swurged all over 
me like a barn falling down. 

Hit sho stopped that poker game. Hit taken three or four 
of them to drag him off en me, with Major turned in his chair 
with a set of threes in his hand, a-hammering on the table 
and hollering cusses. Only a right smart of the helping they 
done was stepping on my face and hands and feet. Hit was 
like a fahr the fellows with the water hose done the most 
part of the damage. 

"What the tarnation hell does this mean?" Major hollers, 
with three or four fellows holding Luke, and him crying like 
a baby. 

"He set them on me!" Luke says. "He was the one sent me 
up there, and I'm a-going to kill him!" 

"Set who on you?" Major says. 

"Them Indians!" Luke says, crying. Then he tried to get 
at me again, flinging them fellows holding his arms around 
like they was rag dolls, until Major pure cussed him quiet. 
He's a man yet. Don't let hit fool you none because he claims 
he ain't strong enough to work. Maybe hit's because he ain't 
never wore his strength down toting around one of them 

68 The Country 

little black satchels full of pink galluses and shaving soap. 
Then Major asked me what hit was all about, and I told him 
how I had just been trying to help Luke get shed of them 

Be dog if I didn't feel right sorry for him. I happened to 
be passing out that way, and so I just thought I would drop 
in on them and see what luck they was having, and I druv up 
about sundown, and the first fellow I see was Luke. I wasn't 
surprised, since this here would be the biggest present gather- 
ing of men in the county, let alone the free eating and 
whisky, so I says, "Well, this is a surprise." And he says: 

"Hic-uh! Hic-ow! Hic-oh! Hie oh, God!" He had done 
already had them since nine o'clock the night before; he had 
been teching the jug ever' time Major offered him one and 
ever' time he could get to hit when Old Man Ash wasn't 
looking; and two days before Major had killed a bear, and I 
reckon Luke had already et more possum-rich bear pork 
let alone the venison they had, with maybe a few coons and 
squirls throwed in for seasoning than he could have hauled 
off in a waggin. So here he was, going three times to the min- 
ute, like one of these here clock bombs; only hit was bear 
meat and whisky instead of dynamite, and so he couldn't ex- 
plode and put himself outen his misery. 

They told me how he had done already kept ever'body 
awake most of the night before, and how Major got up mad 
anyway, and went off with his gun and Ash to handle them 
two bear hounds, and Luke following outen pure misery, I 
reckon, since he hadn't slept no more than nobody else 
walking along behind Major, saying, "Hic-ah! Hic-ow! Hic- 
oh! Hie oh, Lord! " until Major turns on him and says: 

"Get to hell over yonder with them shotgun fellows on 
the deer stands. How do you expect me to walk up on a bear 
or even hear the dogs when they strike? I might as well be 
riding a motorcycle." 

A Bear Hunt 69 

So Luke went on back to where the deer standers was 
along the log-line levee. I reckon he never so much went 
away as he kind of died away in the distance like that ere mo- 
torcycle Major mentioned. He never tried to be quiet. I 
reckon he knowed hit wouldn't be no use. He never tried to 
keep to the open, neither. I reckon he thought that any fool 
would know from his sound that he wasn't no deer. No. I 
reckon he was so mizzable by then that he hoped somebody 
would shoot him. But nobody never, and he come to the first 
stand, where Uncle Ike McCaslin was, and set down on a log 
behind Uncle Ike with his elbows on his knees and his face 
in his hands, going, "Hic-uh! Hic-uh! Hic-uh! Hic-uh!" 
until Uncle Ike turns and says: 

"Confound you, boy; get away from here. Do you reckon 
any varmint in the world is going to walk up to a hay baler? 
Go drink some water." 

"I done already done that," Luke says, without moving. 
"I been drinking water since nine o'clock last night. I done 
already drunk so much water that if I was to fall down I 
would gush like a artesian well." 

"Well, go away anyhow," Uncle Ike says. "Get away 
from here." 

So Luke gets up and kind of staggers away again, kind of 
dying away again like he was run by one of these hyer one- 
cylinder gasoline engines, only a durn sight more often and 
regular. He went on down the levee to where the next stand 
was, and they druv him way from there, and he went on 
toward the next one. I reckon he was still hoping that some- 
body would take pity on him and shoot him, because now he 
kind of seemed to give up. Now, when he come to the "oh, 
God" part of hit, they said you could hyear him clean back 
to camp. They said he would echo back from the canebrake 
across the river like one of these hyer loud-speakers down in 
a well. They said that even the dogs on the trail quit baying, 

70 The Country 

and so they all come up and made him come back to camp. 
That's where he was when I come in. And Old Man Ash was 
there, too, where him and Major had done come in so Major 
could take a nap, and neither me nor Luke noticing him 
except as just another nigger around. 

That was hit. Neither one of us knowed or even thought 
about him. I be dog if hit don't look like sometimes that when 
a fellow sets out to play a joke, hit ain't another fellow he's 
playing that joke on; hit's a kind of big power laying still 
somewhere in the dark that he sets out to prank with without 
knowing hit, and hit all depends on whether that ere power is 
in the notion to take a joke or not, whether or not hit blows 
up right in his face like this one did in mine. Because I says, 
"You done had them since nine o'clock yesterday? That's 
nigh twenty-four hours. Seems like to me you'd 'a' done 
something to try to stop them." And him looldng at me like 
he couldn't make up his mind whether to jump up and bite 
my head off or just to try and bite hisn off, saying "Hic-uh! 
Hic-uh!" slow and regular. Then he says, 

"I don't want to get shed of them. I like them. But if you 
had them, I would get shed of them for you. You want to 
know how?" 

"How? "I says. 

"I'd just tear your head off. Then you wouldn't have 
nothing to hiccup with. They wouldn't worry you then. 
I'd be glad to do hit for you." 

"Sho now," I says, looking at him setting there on the 
kitchen steps hit was after supper, but he hadn't et none, 
being as his throat had done turned into a one-way street on 
him, you might say going "Hic-uh! Hic-oh! Hic-oh! Hic- 
uh!" because I reckon Major had done told him what would 
happen to him if he taken to hollering again. I never meant no 
harm. Besides, they had done already told me how he had 
kept everybody awake all night the night before and had 

A Bear Hunt yj 

done skeered all the game outen that part of the bottom, and 
besides, the walk might help him to pass his own time. So 
I says, "I believe I know how you might get shed of them. 
But, of course, if you don't want to get shed of them " 

And he says, "I just wish somebody would tell me how. 
I'd pay ten dollars just to set here for one minute without 

saying 'hie' " Well, that set him off sho enough. Hit 

was like up to that time his insides had been satisfied with 
going u hic-uh" steady, but quiet, but now, when he re- 
minded himself, hit was like he had done opened a cut-out, 
because right away he begun hollering, "Hie oh, God!" like 
when them fellows on the deer stands had made him come 
back to camp, and I heard Major's feet coming bup-bup-bup 
across the floor. Even his feet sounded mad, and I says quick, 

"Sh-h-h-h! You don't want to get Major mad again, now." 

So he quieted some, setting there on the kitchen steps, 
with Old Man Ash and the other niggers moving around 
inside the kitchen, and he says, "I will try anything you can 
sujest. I done tried ever' thing I knowed and ever'thing any- 
body else told me to. I done held my breath and drunk water 
until I feel just like one of these hyer big automobile tahrs 
they use to advertise with, and I hung by my knees offen 
that limb yonder for fifteen minutes and drunk a pint bottle 
full of water upside down, and somebody said to swallow a 
buckshot and I done that. And still I got them. What do you 
know that I can do?" 

"Well," I says, "I don't know what you would do. But if 
hit was me that had them, I'd go up to the mound and get 
old John Basket to cure me." 

Then he set right still, and then he turned slow and looked 
at me; I be dog if for a minute he didn't even hiccup. "John 
Basket?" he says. 

"Sho," I says. "Them Indians knows all sorts of dodges that 
white doctors ain't hyeard about yet. He'd be glad to do 

j2 The Country 

that much for a white man, too, them pore aboriginees 
would, because the white folks have been so good to them 
not only letting them keep that ere hump of dirt that don't 
nobody want noways, but letting them use names like ourn 
and selling them flour and sugar and farm tools at not no 
more than a fair profit above what they would cost a white 
man. I hyear tell how pretty soon they are even going to start 
letting them come to town once a week. Old Basket would 
be glad to cure them hiccups for you." 

"John Basket," he says; "them Indians," he says, hiccuping 
slow and quiet and steady. Then he says right sudden, "I be 
dog if I will!" Then I be dog if hit didn't sound like he was 
crying. He jumped up and stood there cussing, sounding like 
he was crying. "Hit ain't a man hyer has got any mercy on 
me, white or black. Hyer I done suffered and suffered more 
than twenty-four hours without food or sleep, and not a 
sonabitch of them has any mercy or pity on me!" 

"Well, I was trying to," I says. "Hit ain't me that's got 
them. I just thought, seeing as how you had done seemed to 
got to the place where couldn't no white man help you. But 
hit ain't no law making you go up there and get shed of 
them." So I made like I was going away. I went back around 
the corner of the kitchen and watched him set down on the 
steps again, going "Hic-uh! Hic-uh!" slow and quiet again; 
and then I seen, through the kitchen window, Old Man Ash 
standing just inside the kitchen door, right still, with his head 
bent like he was listening. But still I never suspected nothing. 
Not even did I suspect nothing when, after a while, I watched 
Luke get up again, sudden but quiet, and stand for a minute 
looking at the window where the poker game and the folks 
was, and then look off into the dark towards the road that 
went down the bottom. Then he went into the house, quiet, 
and come out a minute later with a lighted lantrun and a 
shotgun. I don't know whose gun hit was and I don't reckon 

A Bear Hunt 73 

he did, nor cared neither. He just come out kind of quiet 
and determined, and went on down the road. I could see the 
lantrun, but I could hyear him a long time after the lantrun 
had done disappeared. I had come back around the kitchen 
then and I was listening to him dying away down the bot- 
tom, when old Ash says behind me: 

"He gwine up dar?" 

"Up where? "I says. 

"Up to de mound," he says. 

"Why, I be dog if I know," I says. "The last time I talked 
to him he never sounded like he was fixing to go nowhere. 
Maybe he just decided to take a walk. Hit might do him some 
good; make him sleep tonight and help him get up a appetite 
for breakfast maybe. What do you think?" 

But Ash never said nothing. He just went on back into the 
kitchen. And still I never suspected nothing. How could I? 
I hadn't never even seen Jefferson in them days. I hadn't 
never even seen a pair of shoes, let alone two stores in a row 
or a arc light. 

So I went on in where the poker game was, and I says, 
"Well, gentlemen, I reckon we might get some sleep to- 
night." And I told them what had happened, because more 
than like he would stay up there until daylight rather than 
walk them five miles back in the dark, because maybe them 
Indians wouldn't mind a little thing like a fellow with hic- 
cups, like white folks would. And I be dog if Major didn't 
rear up about hit. 

"Dammit, Ratliff," he says, "you ought not to done that." 

"Why, I just sujested hit to him, Major, for a joke," I says. 
"I just told him about how old Basket was a kind of doctor. 
I never expected him to take hit serious. Maybe he ain't even 
going up there. Maybe's he's just went out after a coon." 

But most of them felt about hit like I did. "Let him go," 
Mr. Fraser says. "I hope he walks around all night. Damn if, 

74 The Country 

I slept a wink for him all night long. . . . Deal the cards. 
Uncle Ike." 

"Can't stop him now, noways," Uncle Ike says, dealing 
the cards. "And maybe John Basket can do something for 
his hiccups. Durn young fool, eating and drinking himself to 
where he can't talk nor swallow neither. He set behind me 
on a log this morning, sounding just like a hay baler. I thought 
once I'd have to shoot him to get rid of him. . . . Queen bets 
a quarter, gentlemen." 

So I set there watching them, thinking now and then about 
that durn fellow with his shotgun and his lantrun stumbling 
and blundering along through the woods, walking five miles 
in the dark to get shed of his hiccups, with the varmints all 
watching him and wondering just what kind of a hunt this 
was and just what kind of a two-leg varmint hit was that 
made a noise like that, and about them Indians up at the 
mound when he would come walking in, and I would have 
to laugh until Major says, "What in hell are you mumbling 
an J giggling at?" 

"iNbthing," I says. "I was just thinking about a fellow 
I kncow." 

"A-nd damn if you hadn't ought to be out there with him," 
Majc->r says. Then he decided hit was about drink time and he 
beg^m to holler for Ash. Finally I went to the door and hol~ 
lere^d for Ash towards the kitchen, but hit was another one 
of i the niggers that answered. When he come in with the 
deniijohn and fixings, Major looks up and says "Where's 

"He done gone," the nigger says. 
"Gone?" Major says. "Gone where?" 
"He say he gwine up to'ds de mound," the nigger says. 
And still I never knowed, never suspected. I just thought to 
myself, "That old nigger has turned powerful tender-hearted 
all of a sudden, being skeered for Luke Provine to walk 

A Bear Hunt 75 

around by himself in the dark. Or maybe Ash likes to listen 
to them hiccups," I thought to myself. 

"Up to the mound?" Major says. "By dad, if he comes 
back here full of John Basket's bust-skull whisky I'll skin 
him alive." 

"He ain't say what he gwine fer," the nigger says. "All he 
tell me when he left, he gwine up to'ds de mound and he be 
back by daylight." 

"He better be," Major says. "He better be sober too." 

So we set there and they went on playing and me watching 
them like a durn fool, not suspecting nothing, just thinking 
how hit was a shame that that durned old nigger would have 
to come in and spoil Luke's trip, and hit come along towards 
eleven o'clock and they begun to talk about going to bed, 
being as they was all going out on stand tomorrow, when we 
hyeard the sound. Hit sounded like a drove of wild horses 
coming up that road, and we hadn't no more than turned 
towards the door, a-asking one another what in tarnation hit 
could be, with Major just saying, "What in the name 

of " when hit come across the porch like a harrycane 

and down the hall, and the door busted open and there Luke 
was. He never had no gun and lantrun then, and his clothes 
was nigh tore clean offen him, and his face looked wild as 
ere a man in the Jackson a-sylum. But the main thing 1 
noticed was that he wasn't hiccuping now. And this time, 
too, he was nigh crying. 

"They was fixing to kill me! " he says. "They was going to 
burn me to death! They had done tried me and tied me onto 
the pile of wood, and one of them was coming with the fahr 
when I managed to bust loose and run! " 

"Who was?" Major says. "What in the tarnation hell are 
you talking about?" 

"Them Indians!" Luke says. "They was fixing to " 

"What?" Major hollers. "Damn to blue blazes, what?" 

j6 The Country 

And that was where I had to put my foot in hit. He hadn't 
never seen me until then. "At least they cured your hiccups," 
I says. 

Hit was then that he stopped right still. He hadn't never 
even seen me, but he seen me now. He stopped right still and 
looked at me with that ere wild face that looked like hit had 
just escaped from Jackson and had ought to be took back 
there quick. 

"What? "he says. 

"Anyway, you done run out from under them hiccups," 
I says. 

Well, sir, he stood there for a full minute. His eyes had 
done gone blank, and he stood there with his head cocked a 
little, listening to his own insides. I reckon hit was the first 
time he had took time to find out that they was gone. He 
stood there right still for a full minute while that ere kind of 
shocked astonishment come onto his face. Then he jumped 
on me. I was still setting in my chair, and I be dog if for a 
minute I didn't think the roof had done fell in. 

Well, they got him offen me at last and got him quieted 
down, and then they washed me off and give me a drink, and 
I felt better. But even with that drink I never felt so good 
but what I felt hit was my duty to my honor to call him 
outen the back yard, as the fellow says. No, sir. I know when 
I done made a mistake and guessed wrong; Major de Spain 
wasn't the only man that caught a bear on that hunt; no, sir. 
I be dog, if it had been daylight, I'd a hitched up my Ford 
and taken out of there. But hit was midnight, and besides, 
that nigger, Ash, was on my mind then. I had just begun to 
suspect that hit was more to this business than met the nekkid 
eye. And hit wasn't no good time then to go back to the 
kitchen then and ask him about hit, because Luke was using 
the kitchen. Major had give him a drink, too, and he was 
back there, making up for them two days he hadn't et, talk- 

A Bear Hunt 77 

ing a right smart about what he aimed to do to such and such 
a sonabitch that would try to play his durn jokes on him, not 
mentioning no names; but mostly laying himself in a new set 
of hiccups, though I ain't going back to see. 

So I waited until daylight, until I hyeard the niggers stir- 
ring around in the kitchen; then I went back there. And 
there was old Ash, looking like he always did, oiling Major's 
Jboots and setting them behind the stove and then taking up 
Major's rifle and beginning to load the magazine. He just 
looked once at my face when I come in, and went on shoving 
ca'tridges into the gun. 

"So you went up to the mound last night," I says. He 
looked up at me again, quick, and then down again. But he 
never said nothing, looking like a durned old frizzle-headed 
ape. "You must know some of them folks up there," I says. 

"I knows some of um," he says, shoving ca'tridges into 
the gun. 

"You know old John Basket?" I says. 

"I knows some of um," he says, not looking at me. 

"Did you see him last night?" I says. He never said noth- 
ing at all. So then I changed my tone, like a fellow has to do 
to get anything outen a nigger. "Look here," I says. "Look 
at me." He looked at me. "Just what did you do up there 
last night?" 

"Who, me? "he says. 

"Come on," I says. "Hit's all over now. Mr. Provine has 
done got over his hiccups and we done both forgot about 
anything that might have happened when he got back last 
night. You never went up there just for fun last night. Or 
maybe hit was something you told them up there, told old 
man Basket. Was that hit?" He had done quit looking at me, 
but he never stopped shoving ca'tridges into that gun. He 
looked quick to both sides. "Come on," I says. "Do you want 
to tell me what happened up there, or do you want me to 

78 The Country 

mention to Mr. Provine that you was mixed up in hit some 
way?" He never stopped loading the rifle and he never 
looked at me, but I be dog if I couldn't almost see his mind 
working. "Come on," I says. "Just what was you doing up 
there last night?" 

Then he told me. I reckon he knowed hit wasn't no use 
to try to hide hit then; that if I never told Luke, I could still 
tell Major. "I jest dodged him and got dar first en told um 
he was a new revenue agent coming up dar tonight, but dat 
he warn't much en dat all dey had to do was to give um a 
good skeer en likely he would go away. En dey did en he 

"Well!" I says. "Well! I always thought I was pretty 
good at joking folks," I says, "but I take a back seat for you. 
What happened?" I says. "Did you see hit?" 

"Never much happened," he says. "Dey jest went down 
cle road a piece en atter a while hyer he come a-hickin' en 
a-blumpin' up de road wid de lant'un en de gun. They took 
de lant'un en de gun away frum him en took him up pon 
topper de mound en talked de Injun language at him fer a 
while. Den dey piled up some wood en fixed him on hit so 
he could git loose in a minute, en den one of dem come up 
de hill wid de fire, en he done de rest." 

"Well!" I says. "Well, I'll be eternally durned!" And then 
all on a sudden hit struck me. I had done turned and was 
going out when hit struck me, and I stopped and I says, 
"There's one more thing I want to know. Why did you do 

Now he set there on the wood box, rubbing the gun with 
his hand, not looking at me again. "I wuz jest helping you 
kyo him of dem hiccups." 

"Come on," I says. "That wasn't your reason. What was 
hit? Remember, I got a right smart I can tell Mr. Provine 
and Major both now. I don't know what Major will do, but 
I know what Mr. Provine will do if I was to tell him." 

A Bear Hunt 79 

And he set there, rubbing that ere rifle with his hand. He 
was kind of looking down, like he was thinking. Not like he 
was trying to decide whether to tell me or not, but like he 
was remembering something from a long time back. And 
that's exactly what he was doing, because he says: 

"I ain't skeered for him to know. One time dey was a 
picnic. Hit was a long time back, nigh twenty years ago. 
He was a young man den, en in de middle of de picnic, him 
en he brother en nudder white man I fergit he name dey 
rid up wid dey pistols out en cotch us niggers one at a time 
en burned our collars off. Hit was him dat burnt mine." 

"And you waited all this time and went to all this trouble, 
just to get even with him?" I says. 

"Hit warn't dat," he says, rubbing the rifle with his hand. 
"Hit wuz de collar. Back in dem days a top nigger hand 
made two dollars a week. I paid fo' bits fer dat collar. Hit 
wuz blue, wid a red picture of de race betwixt de Natchez 
en de Robert E. Lee running around hit. He burnt hit up. 
I makes ten dollars a week now. En I jest wish I knowed 
where I could buy another collar like dat un fer half of hit. 
I wish I did." 

Tvuo Soldiers 

ME AND PETE would go down to Old Man Killegrew's and 
listen to his radio. We would wait until after supper, after 
dark, and we would stand outside Old Man Killegrew's par- 
lor window, and we could hear it because Old Man Kille- 
grew's wife was deaf, and so he run the radio as loud as it 
would run, and so me and Pete could hear it plain as Old 
Man Killegrew's wife could, I reckon, even standing outside 
with the window closed. 

And that night I said, "What? Japanese? What's a pearl 
harbor?" and Pete said, "Hush." 

And so we stood there, it was cold, listening to the fellow 
in the radio talking, only I couldn't make no heads nor tails 
neither out of it. Then the fellow said that would be all for 
a while, and me and Pete walked back up the road to home, 
and Pete told me what it was. Because he was nigh twenty 
and he had done finished the Consolidated last June and he 
knowed a heap: about them Japanese dropping bombs on 
Pearl Harbor and that Pearl Harbor was across the water. 

"Across what water?" I said. "Across that Government 
reservoy up at Oxford?" 

"Naw," Pete said. "Across the big water. The Pacific 

We went home. Maw and pap was already asleep, and me 


82 The Country 

and Pete laid in the bed, and I still couldn't understand where 
it was, and Pete told me again the Pacific Ocean. 

"What's the matter with you?" Pete said. "You're going 
on nine years old. You been in school now ever since Sep- 
tember. Ain't you learned nothing yet?" 

"I reckon we ain't got as fer as the Pacific Ocean yet," 
I said. 

We was still sowing the vetch then that ought to been all 
finished by the fifteenth of November, because pap was still 
behind, just like he had been ever since me and Pete had 
knowed him. And we had firewood to git in, too, but every 
night me and Pete would go down to Old Man Killegrew's 
and stand outside his parlor window in the cold and listen to 
his radio; then we would come back home and lay in the 
bed and Pete would tell me what it was. That is, he would 
tell me for a while. Then he wouldn't tell me. It was like he 
didn't want to talk about it no more. He would tell me to 
shut up because he wanted to go to sleep, but he never 
wanted to go to sleep. 

He would lay there, a heap stiller than if he was asleep, 
and it would be something, I could feel it coming out of him, 
like he was mad at me even, only I knowed he wasn't think- 
ing about me, or like he was worried about something, and it 
wasn't that neither, because he never had nothing to worry 
about. He never got behind like pap, let alone stayed behind. 
Pap give him ten acres when he graduated from the Con- 
solidated, and me and Pete both reckoned pap was durn glad 
to get shut of at least ten acres, less to have to worry with 
himself; and Pete had them ten acres all sowed to vetch and 
busted out and bedded for the winter, and so it wasn't that. 
But it was something. And still we would go down to Old 
Man Killegrew's every night and listen to his radio, and they 
was at it in the Philippines now, but General MacArthur 
was holding um. Then we would come back home and lay in 

TIVO Soldiers 83 

the bed, and Pete wouldn't tell me nothing or talk at all. He 
would just lay there still as a ambush and when I would 
touch him, his side or his leg would feel hard and still as iron, 
until after a while I would go to sleep. 

Then one night it was the first time he had said nothing 
to me except to jump on me about not chopping enough 
wood at the wood tree where we was cutting he said, "I 
got to go." 

"Go where? "I said. 

"To that war," Pete said. 

"Before we even finish gettin' in the firewood?" 

"Firewood, hell," Pete said. 

"All right," I said. "When we going to start?" 

But he wasn't even listening. He laid there, hard and still 
as iron in the dark. "I got to go," he said. "I jest ain't going 
to put up with no folks treating the Unity States that way." 

"Yes," I said. "Firewood or no firewood, I reckon we got 
to go." 

This time he heard me. He laid still again, but it was a 
different kind of still. 

"You? "he said. "To a war?" 

"You'll whup the big uns and I'll whup the little uns," 
I said. 

Then he told me I couldn't go. At first I thought he just 
never wanted me tagging after him, like he wouldn't leave me 
go with him when he went sparking them girls of Tull's. 
Then he told me the Army wouldn't leave me go because 
I was too little, and then I knowed he really meant it and 
that I couldn't go nohow noways. And somehow I hadn't 
believed until then that he was going himself, but now I 
knowed he was and that he wasn't going to leave me go with 
him a-tall. 

"I'll chop the wood and tote the water for you-all then!" 
I said. "You got to have wood and water!" 

84 The Country 

Anyway, he was listening to me now. He wasn't like iron 

He turned onto his side and put his hand on my chest 
because it was me that was laying straight and hard on my 
back now. 

"No," he said. "You got to stay here and help pap." 

"Help him what?" I said. "He ain't never caught up no- 
how. He can't get no further behind. He can sholy take care 
of this little shirttail of a farm while me and you are whup- 
ping them Japanese. I got to go too. If you got to go, then 
so have I." 

"No," Pete said. "Hush now. Hush." And he meant it, 
and I knowed he did. Only I made sho from his own mouth. 
I quit. 

"So I just can't go then," I said. 

"No," Pete said. "You just can't go. You're too little, in 
the first place, and in the second place " 

"All right," I said. "Then shut up and leave me go to 

So he hushed then and laid back. And I laid there like I 
was already asleep, and pretty soon he was asleep and I 
knowed it was the wanting to go to the war that had worried 
him and kept him awake, and now that he had decided to go, 
he wasn't worried any more. 

The next morning he told maw and pap. Maw was all 
right. She cried. 

"No," she said, crying, "I don't want him to go. I would 
rather go myself in his place, if I could. I don't want to save 
the country. Them Japanese could take it and keep it, so long 
as they left me and my family and my children alone. But I 
remember my brother Marsh in that other war. He had to go 
to that one when he wasn't but nineteen, and our mother 
couldn't understand it then any more than I can now. But 
she told Marsh if he had to go, he had to go. And so, if Pete's 

T*wo Soldiers 85 

got to go to this one, he's got to go to it. Jest don't ask me 
to understand why." 

But pap was the one. He was the feller. "To the war?" he 
said. "Why, I just don't see a bit of use in that. You ain't old 
enough for the draft, and the country ain't being invaded. 
Our President in Washington, D. C, is watching the condi- 
tions and he will notify us. Besides, in that other war your ma 
just mentioned, I was drafted and sent clean to Texas and was 
held there nigh eight months until they finally quit fighting. 
It seems to me that that, along with your Uncle Marsh who 
received a actual wound on the battlefields of France, is 
enough for me and mine to have to do to protect the coun- 
try, at least in my lifetime. Besides, what'll I do for help on 
the farm with you gone? It seems to me I'll get mighty far 

"You been behind as long as I can remember," Pete said. 
"Anyway, I'm going. I got to." 

"Of course he's got to go," I said. "Them Japanese " 

"You hush your mouth!" maw said, crying. "Nobody's 
talking to you! Go and get me a armful of wood! That's 
what you can do!" 

So I got the wood. And all the next day, while me and 
Pete and pap was getting in as much wood as we could in 
that time because Pete said how pap's idea of plenty of wood 
was one more stick laying against the wall that maw ain't put 
on the fire yet, Maw was getting Pete ready to go. She 
washed and mended his clothes and cooked him a shoe box 
of vittles. And that night me and Pete laid in the bed and 
listened to her packing his grip and crying, until after a 
while Pete got up in his nightshirt and went back there, and 
I could hear them talking, until at last maw said, "You got 
to go, and so I want you to go. But I don't understand it, 
and I won't never, and so don't expect me to." And Pete 
come back and got into the bed again and laid again still and 

86 The Country 

hard as iron on his back, and then tie said, and he wasn't 
talking to me, he wasn't talking to nobody: "I got to go. 
I just got to." 

"Sho you got to," I said. "Them Japanese " He turned 

over hard, he kind of surged over onto his side, looking at 
me in the dark. 

"Anyway, you're all right," he said. "I expected to have 
more trouble with you than with all the rest of them put 

"I reckon I can't help it neither," I said. "But maybe it will 
run a few years longer and I can get there. Maybe someday 
I will jest walk in on you." 

"I hope not," Pete said. "Folks don't go to wars for fun. 
A man don't leave his maw crying just for fun." 

"Then why are you going?" I said. 

"I got to," he said. "I just got to. Now you go on to sleep. 
I got to ketch that early bus in the morning." 

"All right," I said. "I hear tell Memphis is a big place. How 
will you find where the Army's at?" 

"I'll ask somebody where to go to join it," Pete said. "Go 
on to sleep now." 

"Is that what you'll ask for? Where to join the Army?" 
I said. 

"Yes," Pete said. He turned onto his back again. "Shut up 
and go to sleep." 

We went to sleep. The next morning we et breakfast by 
lamplight because the bus would pass at six o'clock. Maw 
wasn't crying now. She jest looked grim and busy, putting 
breakfast on the table while we et it. Then she finished pack- 
ing Pete's grip, except he never wanted to take no grip to 
the war, but maw said decent folks never went nowhere, not 
even to a war, without a change of clothes and something to 
tote them in. She put in the shoe box of fried chicken and 
biscuits and she put the Bible in, too, and then it was time to 

Two Soldiers 87 

go. We didn't know until then that maw wasn't going to the 
bus. She jest brought Pete's cap and overcoat, and still she 
didn't cry no more, she jest stood with her hands on Pete's 
shoulders and she didn't move, but somehow, and just hold- 
ing Pete's shoulders, she looked as hard and fierce as when 
Pete had turned toward me in the bed last night and tole me 
that anyway I was all right. 

"They could take the country and keep the country, so 
long as they never bothered me and mine," she said. Then 
she said, "Don't never forget who you are. You ain't rich 
and the rest of the world outside of Frenchman's Bend never 
heard of you. But your blood is good as any blood anywhere, 
and don't you never forget it." 

Then she kissed him, and then we was out of the house, 
with pap toting Pete's grip whether Pete wanted him to or 
not. There wasn't no dawn even yet, not even after we had 
stood on the highway by the mailbox, a while. Then we seen 
the lights of the bus coming and I was watching the bus until 
it come up and Pete flagged it, and then, sho enough, there 
was daylight it had started while I wasn't watching. And 
now me and Pete expected pap to say something else foolish, 
like he done before, about how Uncle Marsh getting 
wounded in France and that trip to Texas pap taken in 1918 
ought to be enough to save the Unity States in 1942, but he 
never. He done all right too. He jest said, "Good-by, son. 
Always remember what your ma told you and write her 
whenever you find the time." Then he shaken Pete's hand, 
and Pete looked at me a minute and put his hand on my head 
and rubbed my head durn nigh hard enough to wring my 
neck off and jumped into the bus, and the feller wound the 
door shut and the bus began to hum; then it was moving, 
humming and grinding and whining louder and louder; it 
was going fast, with two little red lights behind it that never 
seemed to get no littler, but just seemed to be running to- 

88 The Country 

gether until pretty soon they would touch and jest be one 
light. But they never did, and then the bus was gone, and 
even like it was, I could have pretty nigh busted out crying, 
nigh to nine years old and all. 

Me and pap went back to the house. All that day we 
worked at the wood tree, and so I never had no good chance 
until about middle of the afternoon. Then I taken my sling- 
shot and I would have liked to took all my bird eggs, too, 
because Pete had give me his collection and he holp me with 
mine, and he would like to git the box out and look at them 
as good as I would, even if he was nigh twenty years old. 
But the box was too big to tote a long ways and have to 
worry with, so I just taken the shikepoke egg, because it was 
the best un, and wropped it up good into a matchbox and hid 
it and the slingshot under the corner of the barn. Then we et 
supper and went to bed, and I thought then how if I would 
'a' had to stayed in that room and that bed like that even for 
one more night, I jest couldn't 'a' stood it. Then I could hear 
pap snoring, but I never heard no sound from maw, whether 
she was asleep or not, and I don't reckon she was. So I taken 
my shoes and drapped them out the window, and then I 
clumb out like I used to watch Pete do when he was still jest 
seventeen and pap held that he was too young yet to be tom- 
catting around at night, and wouldn't leave him out, and I 
put on my shoes and went to the barn and got the slingshot 
and the shikepoke egg and went to the highway. 

It wasn't cold, it was jest durn confounded dark, and that 
highway stretched on in front of me like, without nobody 
using it, it had stretched out half again as fer just like a man 
does when he lays down, so that for a time it looked like full 
sun was going to ketch me before I had finished them twenty- 
two miles to Jefferson. But it didn't. Daybreak was jest start- 
ing when I walked up the hill into town. I could smell break- 
fast cooking in the cabins and I wished I had thought to 

Tivo Soldiers 89 

brought me a cold biscuit, but that was too late now. And 
Pete had told me Memphis was a piece beyond Jefferson, but 
I never knowed it was no eighty miles. So I stood there on 
that empty square, with daylight coming and coming and 
the street lights still burning and that Law looking down at 
me, and me still eighty miles from Memphis, and it had took 
me all night to walk jest twenty-two miles, and so, by the 
time I got to Memphis at that rate, Pete would 'a 7 done 
already started for Pearl Harbor. 

"Where do you come from?" the Law said. 

And I told him again. "I got to get to Memphis. My 
brother's there." 

"You mean you ain't got any folks around here?" the Law 
said. "Nobody but that brother? What are you doing way 
off down here and your brother in Memphis?" 

And I told him again, "I got to get to Memphis. I ain't got 
no time to waste talking about it and I ain't got time to walk 
it. I got to git there today." 

"Come on here," the Law said. 

We went down another street. And there was the bus, 
just like when Pete got into it yestiddy morning, except there 
wasn't no lights on it now and it was empty. There was a 
regular bus dee-po like a railroad dee-po, with a ticket 
counter and a feller behind it, and the Law said, "Set down 
over there," and I set down on the bench, and the Law said, 
"I want to use your telephone," and he talked in the tele- 
phone a minute and put it down and said to the feller behind 
the ticket counter, "Keep your eye on him. I'll be back as 
soon as Mrs. Habersham can arrange to get herself up and 
dressed." He went out. I got up and went to the ticket 

"I want to go to Memphis," I said. 

"You bet," the feller said. "You set down on the bench 
now. Mr. Foote will be back in a minute." 

90 The Country 

"I don't know no Mr. Foote," I said. "I want to ride that 
bus to Memphis." 

"You got some money?" he said. "It'll cost you seventy- 
two cents." 

I taken out the matchbox and unwropped the shikepoke 
egg. "I'll swap you this for a ticket to Memphis," I said. 

"What's that? "he said. 

"It's a shikepoke egg," I said. "You never seen one before. 
It's worth a dollar. I'll take seventy-two cents fer it." 

"No," he said, "the fellers that own that bus insist on a 
cash basis. If I started swapping tickets for bird eggs and 
livestock and such, they would fire me. You go and set down 
on the bench now, like Mr. Foote " 

I started for the door, but he caught me, he put one hand 
on the ticket counter and jumped over it and caught up with 
me and reached his hand out to ketch my shirt. I whupped 
out my pocketknife and snapped it open. 

"You put a hand on me and I'll cut it off," I said. 

I tried to dodge him and run at the door, but he could 
move quicker than any grown man I ever see, quick as 
Pete almost. He cut me off and stood with his back against 
the door and one foot raised a little, and there wasn't no 
other way to get out. "Get back on that bench and stay 
there," he said. 

And there wasn't no other way out. And he stood there 
with his back against the door. So I went back to the bench. 
And then it seemed like to me that dee-po was full of folks. 
There was that Law again, and there was two ladies in fur 
coats and their faces already painted. But they still looked 
like they had got up in a hurry and they still never liked it, 
a old one and a young one, looking down at me. 

"He hasn't got a overcoat!" the old one said. "How in 
the world did he ever get down here by himself?" 

"I ask you," the Law said. "I couldn't get nothing out of 

TIVO Soldiers 91 

him except his brother is in Memphis and he wants to get 
back up there." 

"That's right," I said. "I got to git to Memphis today." 

"Of course you must," the old one said. "Are you sure 
you can find your brother when you get to Memphis?" 

"I reckon I can," I said. "I ain't got but one and I have 
knowed him all my life. I reckon I will know him again when 
I see him." 

The old one looked at me. "Somehow he doesn't look like 
he lives in Memphis," she said. 

"He probably don't," the Law said. "You can't tell 
though. He might live anywhere, overhalls or not. This day 

and time they get scattered overnight from he hope to 

breakfast; boys and girls, too, almost before they can walk 
good. He might have been in Missouri or Texas either yes- 
tiddy, for all we know. But he don't seem to have any doubt 
his brother is in Memphis. All I know to do is send him up 
there and leave him look." 

"Yes," the old one said. 

The young one set down on the bench by me and opened 
a hand satchel and taken out a artermatic writing pen and 
some papers. 

"Now, honey," the old one said, "we're going to see that 
you find your brother, but we must have a case history for 
our files first. We want to know your name and your broth- 
er's name and where you were born and when your parents 

"I don't need no case history neither," I said. "All I want 
is to get to Memphis. I got to get there today." 

"You see?" the Law said. He said it almost like he enjoyed 
it. "That's what I told you." 

"You're lucky, at that, Mrs. Habersham," the bus feller 
said. "I don't think he's got a gun on him, but he can open 
that knife da 1 mean, fast enough to suit any man." 

92 The Country 

But the old one just stood there looking at me. 

"Well," she said. "Well. I really don't know what to do." 

"I do," the bus feller said. "I'm going to give him a ticket 
out of my own pocket, as a measure of protecting the com- 
pany against riot and bloodshed. And when Mr. Foote tells 
the city board about it, it will be a civic matter and they will 
not only reimburse me, they will give me a medal too. Hey, 
Mr. Foote?" 

But never nobody paid him no mind. The old one still 
stood looking down at me. She said "Well," again. Then she 
taken a dollar from her purse and give it to the bus feller. 
"I suppose he will travel on a child's ticket, won't he?" 

"Wellum," the bus feller said, "I just don't know what 
the regulations would be. Likely I will be fired for not crat- 
ing him and marking the crate Poison. But I'll risk it." 

Then they were gone. Then the Law come back with a 
sandwich and give it to me. 

"You're sure you can find that brother?" he said. 

"I ain't yet convinced why not," I said. "If I don't see Pete 
first, he'll see me. He knows me too." 

Then the Law went out for good, too, and I et the sand- 
wich. Then more folks come in and bought tickets, and then 
the bus feller said it was time to go, and I got into the bus 
just like Pete done, and we was gone. 

I seen all the towns. I seen all of them. When the bus got to 
going good, I found out I was jest about wore out for sleep. 
But there was too much I hadn't never saw before. We run 
out of Jefferson and run past fields and woods, then we 
would run into another town and out of that un and past 
fields and woods again, and then into another town with 
stores and gins and water tanks, and we run along by the 
railroad for a spell and I seen the signal arm move, and then 
I seen the train and then some more towns, and I was jest 
about plumb wore out for sleep, but I couldn't resk it. Then 

Two Soldiers 93 

Memphis begun. It seemed like, to me, it went on for miles. 
We would pass a patch of stores and I would think that was 
sholy it and the bus would even stop. But it wouldn't be 
Memphis yet and we would go on again past water tanks and 
smokestacks on top of the mills, and if they was gins and 
sawmills, I never knowed there was that many and I never 
seen any that big, and where they got enough cotton and 
logs to run um I don't know. 

Then I see Memphis. I knowed I was right this time. It 
was standing up into the air. It looked like about a dozen 
whole towns bigger than Jefferson was set up on one edge 
in a field, standing up into the air higher than ara hill in all 
Yoknapatawpha County. Then we was in it, with the bus 
stopping ever' few feet, it seemed like to me, and cars rushing 
past on both sides of it and the street crowded with folks 
from ever'where in town that day, until I didn't see how 
there could 'a' been nobody left in Mis'sippi a-tall to even 
sell me a bus ticket, let alone write out no case histories. 
Then the bus stopped. It was another bus dee-po, a heap 
bigger than the one in Jefferson. And I said, "All right. 
Where do folks join the Army?" 

"What?" the bus feller said. 

And I said it again, "Where do folks join the Army?" 

"Oh," he said. Then he told me how to get there. I was 
afraid at first I wouldn't ketch on how to do in a town big 
as Memphis. But I caught on all right. I never had to ask but 
twice more. Then I was there, and I was durn glad to git out 
of all them rushing cars and shoving folks and all that racket 
for a spell, and I thought, It won't be long now, and I thought 
how if there was any kind of a crowd there that had done 
already joined the Army, too, Pete would likely see me 
before I seen him. And so I walked into the room. And Pete 
wasn't there. 

He wasn't even there. There was a soldier with a big arrer- 

94 The Country 

head on his sleeve, writing, and two fellers standing in front 
of him, and there was some more folks there, I reckon. It 
seems to me I remember some more folks there. 

I went to the table where the soldier was writing, and I 
said, "Where's Pete?" and he looked up and I said, "My 
brother. Pete Grier. Where is he?" 

"What?" the soldier said. "Who?" 

And I told him again. "He joined the Army yestiddy. 
He's going to Pearl Harbor. So am I. I want to ketch him. 
Where you all got him? " Now they were all looking at me, 
but I never paid them no mind. "Come on," I said. "Where 
is he?" 

The soldier had quit writing. He had both hands spraddled 
out on the table. "Oh," he said. "You're going, too, hah?" 

"Yes," I said. "They got to have wood and water. I can 
chop it and tote it. Come on. Where's Pete?" 

The soldier stood up. "Who let you in here?" he said. "Go 
on. Beat it." 

"Durn that," I said. "You tell me where Pete " 

I be dog if he couldn't move faster than the bus feller 
even. He never come over the table, he come around it, he 
was on me almost before I knowed it, so that I jest had time 
to jump back and whup out my pocket-knife and snap it 
open and hit one lick, and he hollered and jumped back and 
grabbed one hand with the other and stood there cussing 
and hollering. 

One of the other fellers grabbed me from behind, and I 
hit at him with the knife, but I couldn't reach him. 

Then both of the fellers had me from behind, and then 
another soldier come out of a door at the back. He had on a 
belt with a britching strop over one shoulder. 

"What the hell is this?" he said. 

"That little son cut me with a knife!" the first sol 
dier hollered. When he said that I tried to get at him again. 

Two Soldiers 95 

but both them fellers was holding me, two against one, and 
the soldier with the backing strop said, "Here, here. Put your 
knife up, feller. None of us are armed. A man don't knife- 
fight folks that are barehanded." I could begin to hear him 
then. He sounded jest like Pete talked to me. "Let him go," 
he said. They let me go. "Now what's all the trouble about?" 
And I told him. "I see," he said. "And you come up to see 
if he was all right before he left." 

"No," I said. "I came to " 

But he had already turned to where the first soldier was 
wropping a handkerchief around his hand. 

"Have you got him?" he said. The first soldier went back 
to the table and looked at some papers. 

"Here he is," he said. "He enlisted yestiddy. He's in a 
detachment leaving this morning for Little Rock." He had a 
watch stropped on his arm. He looked at it. "The train leaves 
in about fifty minutes. If I know country boys, they're prob- 
ably all down there at the station right now." 

"Get him up here," the one with the backing strop said. 
"Phone the station. Tell the porter to get him a cab. And you 
come with me," he said. 

It was another office behind that un, with jest a table and 
some chairs. We set there while the soldier smoked, and it 
wasn't long; I knowed Pete's feet soon as I heard them. Then 
the first soldier opened the door and Pete come in. He never 
had no soldier clothes on. He looked jest like he did when 
he got on the bus yestiddy morning, except it seemed to me 
like it was at least a week, so much had happened, and I had 
done had to do so much traveling. He come in and there he 
was, looking at me like he hadn't never left home, except that 
here we was in Memphis, on the way to Pearl Harbor. 

"What in durnation are you doing here?" he said. 

And I told him, "You got to have wood and water to 
cook with. I can chop it and tote it for you-all." 

96 The Country 

"No," Pete said. "You're going back home." 

"No, Pete," I said. "I got to go too. I got to. It hurts my 
heart, Pete." 

"No," Pete said. He looked at the soldier. "I jest don't 
know what could have happened to him, lootenant," he said. 
"He never drawed a knife on anybody before in his life." 
He looked at me. "What did you do it for? " 

"I don't know," I said. "I jest had to. I jest had to git here* 
I jest had to find you." 

"Well, don't you never do it again, you hear?" Pete said. 
"You put that knife in your pocket and you keep it there. 
If I ever again hear of you drawing it on anybody, I'm com- 
ing back from wherever I am at and whup the fire out of 
you. You hear me?" 

"I would pure cut a throat if it would bring you back to 
stay," I said. "Pete," I said. "Pete." 

"No," Pete said. Now his voice wasn't hard and quick no 
more, it was almost quiet, and I knowed now I wouldn't 
never change him. "You must go home. You must look after 
maw, and I am depending on you to look after my ten acres. 
I want you to go back home. Today. Do you hear?" 

"I hear," I said. 

"Can he get back home by himself?" the soldier said. 

"He come up here by himself," Pete said. 

"I can get back, I reckon," I said. "I don't live in but one 
place. I don't reckon it's moved." 

Pete taken a dollar out of his pocket and give it to me. 
"That'll buy your bus ticket right to our mailbox," he said. 
"I want you to mind the lootenant. He'll send you to the 
bus. And you go back home and you take care of maw and 
look after my ten acres and keep that durn knife in your 
pocket. You hear me?" 

"Yes, Pete," I said. 

"All right," Pete said. "Now I got to go." He put his hand 

Two Soldiers 97 

on my head again. But this time he never wrung my neck. 
He just laid his hand on my head a minute. And then I be 
dog if he didn't lean down and kiss me, and I heard his feet 
and then the door, and I never looked up and that was all, 
me setting there, rubbing the place where Pete kissed me 
and the soldier throwed back in his chair, looking out the 
window and coughing. He reached into his pocket and 
handed something to me without looking around. It was a 
piece of chewing gum. 

"Much obliged," I said. "Well, I reckon I might as well 
start back. I got a right fer piece to go." 

"Wait," the soldier said. Then he telephoned again and I 
said again I better start back, and he said again, "Wait. Re- 
member what Pete told you." 

So we waited, and then another lady come in, old, too, in 
a fur coat, too, but she smelled all right, she never had no 
artermatic writing pen nor no case history neither. She come 
in and the soldier got up, and she looked around quick until 
she saw me, and come and put her hand on my shoulder light 
and quick and easy as maw herself might 'a' done it. 

"Come on," she said. "Let's go home to dinner." 

"Nome," I said. "I got to ketch the bus to Jefferson." 

"I know. There's plenty of time. We'll go home and eat 
dinner first." 

She had a car. And now we was right down in the middle 
of all them other cars. We was almost under the busses, and 
all them crowds of people on the street close enough to 
where I could have talked to them if I had knowed who 
they was. After a while she stopped the car. "Here we are," 
she said, and I looked at it, and if all that was her house, she 
sho had a big family. But all of it wasn't. We crossed a hall 
with trees growing in it and went into a little room without 
nothing in it but a nigger dressed up in a uniform a heap 
shinier than them soldiers had, and the nigger shut the door, 

98 The Country 

and then I hollered, "Look out!" and grabbed, but it was all 
right; that whole little room jest went right on up and 
stopped and the door opened and we was in another hall, 
and the lady unlocked a door and we went in, and there was 
another soldier, a old feller, with a britching strop, too, and 
a silver-colored bird on each shoulder. 

"Here we are," the lady said. "This is Colonel McKellogg. 
Now, what would you like for dinner? " 

"I reckon I'll jest have some ham and eggs and coffee," 
I said. 

She had done started to pick up the telephone. She stopped, 
"Coffee?" she said. "When did you start drinking coffee?" 

"I don't know," I said. "I reckon it was before I could 

"You're about eight, aren't you?" she said. 

"Nome," I said. "I'm eight and ten months. Going on 
eleven months." 

She telephoned then. Then we set there and I told them 
how Pete had jest left that morning for Pearl Harbor and I 
had aimed to go with him, but I would have to go back 
home to take care of maw and look after Pete's ten acres, 
and she said how they had a little boy about my size, too, in 
a school in the East. Then a nigger, another one, in a short 
kind of shirttail coat, rolled a kind of wheelbarrer in. It had 
my ham and eggs and a glass of milk and a piece of pie, too, 
and I thought I was hungry. But when I taken the first bite 
I found out I couldn't swallow it, and I got up quick. 

"I got to go," I said. 

"Wait," she said. 

"I got to go," I said. 

"Just a minute," she said. "I've already telephoned for the 
car. It won't be but a minute now. Can't you drink the milk 
even? Or maybe some of your coffee?" 

Two Soldiers 99 

"Nome," I said. "I ain't hungry. Til eat when I git home." 
Then the telephone rung. She never even answered it. 

"There," she said. "There's the car." And we went back 
down in that 'ere little moving room with the dressed-up 
nigger. This time it was a big car with a soldier driving it. 
I got into the front with him. She give the soldier a dollar. 
"He might get hungry," she said. "Try to find a decent 
place for him." 

"O.K., Mrs. McKellogg," the soldier said. 

Then we was gone again. And now I could see Memphis 
good, bright in the sunshine, while we was swinging around 
it. And first thing I knowed, we was back on the same high- 
way the bus run on this morning the patches of stores and 
them big gins and sawmills, and Memphis running on for 
miles, it seemed like to me, before it begun to give out. Then 
we was running again between the fields and woods, run- 
ning fast now, and except for that soldier, it was like I 
hadn't never been to Memphis a-tall. We was going fast now. 
At this rate, before I knowed it we would be home again, and 
I thought about me riding up to Frenchman's Bend in this 
big car with a soldier running it, and all of a sudden I begun 
to cry. I never knowed I was fixing to, and I couldn't stop 
it. I set there by that soldier, crying. We was going fast. 

Shall Not Perish 

WHEN THE MESSAGE came about Pete, Father and I had 
already gone to the field. Mother got it out of the mailbox 
after we left and brought it down to the fence, and she 
already knew beforehand what it was because she didn't 
even have on her sunbonnet, so she must have been watching 
from the kitchen window when the carrier drove up. And 
I already knew what was in it too. Because she didn't speak. 
She just stood at the fence with the little pale envelope that 
didn't even need a stamp on it in her hand, and it was me 
that hollered at Father, from further away across the field 
than he was, so that he reached the fence first where Mother 
waited even though I was already running. "I know what 
it is," Mother said. "But can't open it. Open it." 

"No it ain't!" I hollered, running. "No it ain't!" Then I 
was hollering, "No, Pete! No, Pete!" Then I was hollering, 
"God damn them Japs! God damn them Japs!" and then I 
was the one Father had to grab and hold, trying to hold me, 
having to wrastle with me like I was another man instead of 
just nine. 

And that was all. One day there was Pearl Harbor. And 
the next week Pete went to Memphis, to join the army and 
go there and help them; and one morning Mother stood at the 
field fence with ^ little scrap of paper not even big enough to 
start a fire with, that didn't even need a stamp on the enve- 


io2 The Country 

lope, saying, A ship 'was. NOIV it is not. Your son 'was one of 
them. And we allowed ourselves one day to grieve, and that 
was all. Because it was April, the hardest middle push of 
planting time, and there was the land, the seventy acres which 
were our bread and fire and keep, which had outlasted the 
Griers before us because they had done right by it, and had 
outlasted Pete because while he was here he had done his part 
to help and would outlast Mother and Father and me if we 
did ours. 

Then it happened again. Maybe we had forgotten that it 
could and was going to, again and again, to people who loved 
sons and brothers as we loved Pete, until the day finally came 
when there would be an end to it. After that day when we 
saw Pete's name and picture in the Memphis paper, Father 
would bring one home with him each time he went to town. 
And we would see the pictures and names of soldiers and 
sailors from other counties and towns in Mississippi and Ar- 
kansas and Tennessee, but there wasn't another from ours, 
and so after a while it did look like Pete was going to be all. 

Then it happened again. It was late July, a Friday. Father 
had gone to town early on Homer Bookwright's cattletruck 
and now it was sundown. I had just come up from the field 
with the light sweep and I had just finished stalling the mule 
and come out of the barn when Homer's truck stopped at the 
mailbox and Father got down and came up the lane, with a 
sack of flour balanced on his shoulder and a package under 
his arm and the folded newspaper in his hand. And I took one 
look at the folded paper and then no more. Because I knew it 
too, even if he always did have one when he came back from 
town. Because it was bound to happen sooner or later; it 
would not be just us out of all Yoknapatawpha County who 
had loved enough to have sole right to grief. So I just met 
him and took part of the load and turned beside him, and we 
entered the kitchen together where our cold supper waited 

Shall Not Perish 103 

on the table and Mother sat in the last of sunset in the open 
door, her hand and arm strong and steady on the dasher of 
the churn. 

When the message came about Pete, Father never touched 
her. He didn't touch her now. He just lowered the flour onto 
the table and went to the chair and held out the folded paper. 
"It's Major de Spain's boy," he said. "In town. The av-aytor. 
That was home last fall in his officer uniform. He run his 
airplane into a Japanese battleship and blowed it up. So they 
knowed where he was at." And Mother didn't stop the churn 
for a minute either, because even I could tell that the butter 
had almost come. Then she got up and went to the sink and 
washed her hands and came back and sat down again. 

"Read it," she said. 

So Father and I found out that Mother not only knew all 
the time it was going to happen again, but that she already 
knew what she was going to do when it did, not only this 
time but the next one too, and the one after that and the one 
after that, until the day finally came when all the grieving 
about the earth, the rich and the poor too, whether they lived 
with ten nigger servants in the fine big painted houses in 
town or whether they lived on and by seventy acres of not 
extra good land like us or whether all they owned was the 
right to sweat today for what they would eat tonight, could 
say, At least this there 'was some point to 'why *we grieved. 

We fed and milked and came back and ate the cold sup- 
per, and I built a fire in the stove and Mother put on the 
kettle and whatever else would heat enough water for two, 
and I fetched in the washtub from the back porch, and while 
Mother washed the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen, Father 
and I sat on the front steps. This was about the time of day 
that Pete and I would walk the two miles down to Old Man 
Killegrew's house last December, to listen to the radio teli 
about Pearl Harbor and Manila. But more than Pearl Harbor 

104 The Country 

and Manila has happened since then, and Pete don't make one 
to listen to it. Nor do I: it's like, since nobody can tell us 
exactly where he was when he stopped being is, instead of 
just becoming *was at some single spot on the earth where 
the people who loved him could weight him down with a 
stone, Pete still is everywhere about the earth, one among all 
the fighters forever, <was or is either. So Mother and Father 
and I don't need a little wooden box to catch the voices of 
them that saw the courage and the sacrifice. Then Mother 
called me back to the kitchen. The water smoked a little in 
the washtub, beside the soap dish and my clean nightshirt and 
the towel Mother made out of our worn-out cotton sacks, 
and I bathe and empty the tub and leave it ready for her, and 
we lie down. 

Then morning, and we rose. Mother was up first, as al- 
ways. My clean white Sunday shirt and pants were waiting, 
along with the shoes and stockings I hadn't even seen since 
frost was out of the ground. But in yesterday's overalls still 
I carried the shoes back to the kitchen where Mother stood 
in yesterday's dress at the stove where not only our breakfast 
was cooking but Father's dinner too, and set the shoes beside 
her Sunday ones against the wall and went to the barn, and 
Father and I fed and milked and came back and sat down and 
ate while Mother moved back and forth between the table 
and the stove till we were done, and she herself sat down. 
Then I got out the blacking-box, until Father came and took 
it away from me the polish and rag and brush and the four 
shoes in succession. "De Spain is rich," he said. "With a 
monkey nigger in a white coat to hold the jar up each time 
he wants to spit. You shine all shoes like you aimed yourself 
to wear them: just the parts that you can see yourself by 
looking down." 

Then we dressed. I put on my Sunday shirt and the pants 
so stiff with starch that they would stand alone, and carried 

Shall Not Perish 105 

my stockings back to the kitchen just as Mother entered, car- 
rying hers, and dressed too, even her hat, and took my stock- 
ings from me and put them with hers on the table beside the 
shined shoes, and lifted the satchel down from the cupboard 
shelf. It was still in the cardboard box it came in, with the 
colored label of the San Francisco drugstore where Pete 
bought it a round, square-ended, water-proof satchel with 
a handle for carrying, so that as soon as Pete saw it in the 
store he must have known too that it had been almost exactly 
made for exactly what we would use it for, with a zipper 
opening that Mother had never seen before nor Father either. 
That is, we had all three been in the drugstore and the ten- 
cent-store in Jefferson but I was the only one who had been 
curious enough to find out how one worked, even though 
even I never dreamed we would ever own one. So it was me 
that zipped it open, with a pipe and a can of tobacco in it for 
Father and a hunting cap with a carbide headlight for me 
and for Mother the satchel itself, and she zipped it shut and 
then open and then Father tried it, running the slide up and 
down the little clicking track until Mother made him stop 
before he wore it out; and she put the satchel, still open, back 
into the box and I fetched in from the barn the empty quart 
bottle of cattle-dip and she scalded the bottle and cork and 
put them and the clean folded towel into the satchel and set 
the box onto the cupboard shelf, the zipper still open because 
when we came to need it we would have to open it first and 
so we would save that much wear on the zipper too. She 
took the satchel from the box and the bottle from the satchel 
and filled the bottle with clean water and corked it and put it 
back into the satchel with the clean towel and put our shoes 
and stockings in and zipped the satchel shut, and we walked 
to the road and stood in the bright hot morning beside the 
mailbox until the bus came up and stopped. 

It was the school bus, the one I rode back and forth to 

io6 The Country 

Frenchman's Bend to school in last winter, and that Pete rode 
in every morning and evening until he graduated, but going 
in the opposite direction now, in to Jefferson, and only on 
Saturday, seen for a long time down the long straight stretch 
of Valley road while other people waiting beside other mail- 
boxes got into it. Then it was our turn. Mother handed the 
two quarters to Solon Quick, who built it and owned it and 
drove it, and we got in too and it went on, and soon there was 
no more room for the ones that stood beside the mailboxes 
and signalled and then it went fast, twenty miles then ten 
then five then one, and up the last hill to where the concrete 
streets began, and we got out and sat on the curb and Mother 
opened the satchel and took our shoes and the bottle of water 
and the towel and we washed our feet and put on our shoes 
and stockings and Mother put the bottle and towel back and 
shut the bag. 

And we walked beside the iron picket fence long enough 
to front a cotton patch; we turned into the yard which was 
bigger than farms I had seen and followed the gravel drive 
wider and smoother than roads in Frenchman's Bend, on to 
the house that to me anyway looked bigger than the court- 
house, and mounted the steps between the stone columns 
and crossed the portico that would have held our whole 
house, galleries and all, and knocked at the door. And then 
it never mattered whether our shoes were shined at all or 
not: the whites of the monkey nigger's eyes for just a second 
when he opened the door for us, the white of his coat for 
just a second at the end of the hall before it was gone too, 
his feet not making any more noise than a cat's leaving us 
to find the right door by ourselves, if we could. And we 
did the rich man's parlor that any woman in Frenchman's 
Bend and I reckon in the rest of the county too could have 
described to the inch but which not even the men who would 
come to Major de Spain after bank-hours or on Sunday to 

Shall Not Perish 107 

ask to have a note extended, had ever seen, with a light 
hanging in the middle of the ceiling the size of our whole 
washtub full of chopped-up ice and a gold-colored harp 
that would have blocked our barn door and a mirror that 
a man on a mule could have seen himself and the mule both 
in, and a table shaped like a coffin in the middle of the floor 
with the Confederate flag spread over it and the photograph 
of Major de Spain's son and the open box with the medal in 
it and a big blue automatic pistol weighting down the flag, 
and Major de Spain standing at the end of the table with his 
hat on until after a while he seemed to hear and recognize 
the name which Mother spoke; not a real major but just 
called that because his father had been a real one in the old 
Confederate war, but a banker powerful in money and 
politics both, that Father said had made governors and sen- 
ators too in Mississippi; an old man, too old you would have 
said to have had a son just twenty- three; too old anyway 
to have had that look on his face. 

"Ha," he said. "I remember now. You too were advised 
that your son poured out his blood on the altar of unpre- 
paredness and inefficiency. What do you want?" 

"Nothing," Mother said. She didn't even pause at the 
door. She went on toward the table. "We had nothing to 
bring you. And I don't think I see anything here we would 
want to take away." 

"You're wrong," he said. "You have a son left. Take what 
they have been advising to me: go back home and pray. 
Not for the dead one: for the one they have so far left you, 
that something somewhere, somehow will save him!" She 
wasn't even looking at him. She never had looked at him 
again. She just went on across that barn-sized room exactly 
as I have watched her set mine and Father's lunch pail into 
the fence corner when there wasn't time to stop the plows 
to eat, and turn back toward the house. 

io8 The Country 

"I can tell you something simpler than that," she said. 
"Weep." Then she reached the table. But it was only her 
body that stopped, her hand going out so smooth and quick 
that his hand only caught her wrist, the two hands locked 
together on the big blue pistol, between the photograph and 
the little hunk of iron medal on its colored ribbon, against 
that old flag that a heap of people I knew had never seen and 
a heap more of them wouldn't recognize if they did, and over 
all of it the old man's voice that ought not to have sounded 
like that either. 

"For his country! He had no country: this one I too re- 
pudiate. His country and mine both was ravaged and polluted 
and destroyed eighty years ago, before even I was born. His 
forefathers fought and died for it then, even though what 
they fought and lost for was a dream. He didn't even have 
a dream. He died for an illusion. In the interests of usury, 
by the folly and rapacity of politicians, for the glory and 
aggrandisement of organized labor!" 

"Yes," Mother said. "Weep." 

"The fear of elective servants for their incumbencies! The 
subservience of misled workingmen for the demagogues who 
misled them! Shame? Grief? How can poltroonery and 
rapacity and voluntary thralldom know shame or grief?" 

"All men are capable of shame," Mother said. "Just as all 
men are capable of courage and honor and sacrifice. And 
grief too. It will take time, but they will learn it. It will take 
more grief than yours and mine, and there will be more. But 
it will be enough." 

"When? When all the young men are dead? What will 
there be left then worth the saving?" 

"I know," Mother said. "I know. Our Pete was too young 
too to have to die." Then I realized that their hands were no 
longer locked, that he was erect again and that the pistol 
was hanging slack in Mother's hand against her side, and for 

Shall Not Perish 109 

a minute I thought she was going to unzip the satchel and 
take the towel out of it. But she just laid the pistol back on 
the table and stepped up to him and took the handkerchief 
from his breast pocket and put it into his hand and stepped 
back. "That's right," she said. "Weep. Not for him: for us, 
the old, who don't know why. What is your Negro's name?" 

But he didn't answer. He didn't even raise the handkerchief 
to his face. He just stood there holding it, like he hadn't 
discovered yet that it was in his hand, or perhaps even what 
it was Mother had put there. "For us, the old," he said. "You 
believe. You have had three months to learn again, to find 
out why; mine happened yesterday. Tell me." 

"I don't know," Mother said. "Maybe women are not 
supposed to know why their sons must die in battle; maybe 
all they are supposed to do is just to grieve for them. But my 
son knew why And my brother went to the war when I was 
a girl, and our mother didn't know why either, but he did. 
And my grandfather was in that old one there too, and I 
reckon his mother didn't know why either, but I reckon 
he did. And my son knew why he had to go to this one, and 
he knew I knew he did even though I didn't, just as he knew 
that this child here and I both knew he would not come back. 
But he knew why, even if I didn't, couldn't, never can. So it 
must be all right, even if I couldn't understand it. Because 
there is nothing in him that I or his father didn't put there. 
What is your Negro's name?" 

He called the name then. And the nigger wasn't so far 
away after all, though when he entered Major de Spain 
had already turned so that his back was toward the door. 
He didn't look around. He just pointed toward the table with 
the hand Mother had put the handkerchief into, and the 
nigger went to the table without looking at anybody and 
without making any more noise on the floor than a cat and 
he didn't stop at all; it looked to me like he had already 

no The Country 

turned and started back before he even reached the table: 
one flick of the black hand and the white sleeve and the 
pistol vanished without me even seeing him touch it and 
when he passed me again going out, I couldn't see what he 
had done with it. So Mother had to speak twice before I 
knew she was talking to me. 
"Come," she said. 

"Wait," said Major de Spain. He had turned again, facing 
us. "What you and his father gave him. You must know 
what that was." 

"I know it came a long way," Mother said. "So it must 
have been strong to have lasted through all of us. It must 
have been all right for him to be willing to die for it after 
that long time and coming that far. Come," she said again. 
"Wait," he said. "Wait. Where did you come from?" 
Mother stopped. "I told you: Frenchman's Bend." 
"I know. How? By wagon? You have no car." 
"Oh," Mother said. "We came in Mr. Quick's bus. He 
comes in every Saturday." 

"And waits until night to go back. I'll send you back in my 
car." He called the nigger's name again. But Mother stopped 
him. "Thank you," she said. "We have already paid Mr. 
Quick. He owes us the ride back home." 

There was an old lady born and raised in Jefferson who 
died rich somewhere in the North and left some money to 
the town to build a museum with. It was a house like a 
church, built for nothing else except to hold the pictures 
she picked out to put in it pictures from all over the United 
States, painted by people who loved what they had seen or 
where they had been born or lived enough to want to paint 
pictures of it so that other people could see it too; pictures 
of men and women and children, and the houses and streets 
and cities and the woods and fields and streams where they 
Worked or lived or pleasured, so that all the people who 

Shall Not Perish 1 1 1 

wanted to, people like us from Frenchman's Bend or from 
littler places even than Frenchman's Bend in our county or 
beyond our state too, could come without charge into the 
cool and the quiet and look without let at the pictures of 
men and women and children who were the same people 
that we were even if their houses and barns were different 
and their fields worked different, with different things grow- 
ing in them. So it was already late when we left the museum, 
and later still when we got back to where the bus waited, 
and later still more before we got started, although at least 
we could get into the bus and take our shoes and stockings 
back off. Because Mrs. Quick hadn't come yet and so Solon 
had to wait for her, not because she was his wife but because 
he made her pay a quarter out of her egg-money to ride to 
town and back on Saturday, and he wouldn't go off and 
leave anybody who had paid him. And so, even though the 
bus ran fast again, when the road finally straightened out into 
the long Valley stretch, there was only the last sunset spok- 
ing out across the sky, stretching all the way across America 
from the Pacific ocean, touching all the places that the men 
and women in the museum whose names we didn't even 
know had loved enough to paint pictures of them, like a 
big soft fading wheel. 

And I remembered how Father used to always prove any 
point he wanted to make to Pete and me, by Grandfather. 
It didn't matter whether it was something he thought we 
ought to have done and hadn't, or something he would have 
stopped us from doing if he had just known about it in 
time. "Now, take your Grandpap," he would say. I could 
remember him too: Father's grandfather even, old, so old 
you just wouldn't believe it, so old that it would seem to 
me he must have gone clean back to the old fathers in 
Genesis and Exodus that talked face to face with God, and 
Grandpap outlived them all except him. It seemed to me he 

ii2 The Country 

must have been too old even to have actually fought in the 
old Confederate war, although that was about all he talked 
about, not only when we thought that maybe he was awake 
but even when we knew he must be asleep, until after a 
while we had to admit that we never knew which one he 
really was. He would sit in his chair under the mulberry in 
the yard or on the sunny end of the front gallery or in his 
corner by the hearth; he would start up out of the chair and 
we still wouldn't know which one he was, whether he never 
had been asleep or whether he hadn't ever waked even when 
he jumped up, hollering, "Look out! Look out! Here they 
come!" He wouldn't even always holler the same name; 
they wouldn't even always be on the same side or even 
soldiers: Forrest, or Morgan, or Abe Lincoln, or Van Dorn, 
or Grant or Colonel Sartoris himself, whose people still 
lived in our county, or Mrs. Rosa Millard, Colonel Sartoris's 
mother-in-law who stood off the Yankees and carpetbaggers 
too for the whole four years of the war until Colonel Sartoris 
could get back home. Pete thought it was just funny. Father 
and I were ashamed. We didn't know what Mother thought 
nor even what it was, until the afternoon at the picture show. 
It was a continued picture, a Western; it seemed to me 
that it had been running every Saturday afternoon for years. 
Pete and Father and I would go in to town every Saturday 
to see it, and sometimes Mother would go too, to sit there 
in the dark while the pistols popped and snapped and the 
horses galloped and each time it would look like they were 
going to catch him but you knew they wouldn't quite, that 
there would be some more of it next Saturday and the one 
after that and the one after that, and always the week in 
between for me and Pete to talk about the villain's pearl- 
handled pistol that Pete wished was his and the hero's spotted 
horse that I wished was mine. Then one Saturday Mother 
decided to take Grandpap. He sat between her and me, 

Shall Not Perish 113 

already asleep again, so old now that he didn't even have 
to snore, until the time came that you could have set a watch 
by every Saturday afternoon: when the horses all came 
plunging down the cliff and whirled around and came boil- 
ing up the gully until in just one more jump they would 
come clean out of the screen and go galloping among the 
little faces turned up to them like corn shucks scattered 
across a lot. Then Grandpap waked up. For about five 
seconds he sat perfectly still. I could even feel him sitting 
still, he sat so still so hard. Then he said, "Cavalry!" Then 
he was on his feet. "Forrest!" he said. "Bedford Forrest! Get 
out of here! Get out of the way!" clawing and scrabbling 
from one seat to the next one whether there was anybody 
in them or not, into the aisle with us trying to follow and 
catch him, and up the aisle toward the door still hollering, 
"Forrest! Forrest! Here he comes! Get out of the way!" 
and outside at last, with half the show behind us and Grand- 
pap blinking and trembling at the light and Pete propped 
against the wall by his arms like he was being sick, laughing, 
and father shaking Grandpap's arm and saying, "You old 
fool! You old fool!" until Mother made him stop. And we 
half carried him around to the alley where the wagon was 
hitched and helped him in and Mother got in and sat by him s 
holding his hand until he could begin to stop shaking. "Go 
get him a bottle of beer," she said. 

"He don't deserve any beer," Father said. "The old fool, 
having the whole town laughing. . . ." 

"Go get him some beer!" Mother said. "He's going to sit 
right here in his own wagon and drink it. Go on!" And 
Father did, and Mother held the bottle until Grandpap got 
a good hold on it, and she sat holding his hand until he got 
a good swallow down him. Then he begun to stop shaking. 
He said, "Ah-h-h," and took another swallow and said, 

ii4 The Country 

"Ah-h-h," again and then he even drew his other hand out 
of Mother's and he wasn't trembling now but just a little, 
taking little darting sips at the bottle and saying "Hah! " and 
taking another sip and saying "Hah!" again, and not just 
looking at the bottle now but looking all around, and his 
eyes snapping a little when he blinked. "Fools yourselves! " 
Mother cried at Father and Pete and me. "He wasn't running 
from anybody! He was running in front of them, hollering 
at all clods to look out because better men than they were 
coming, even seventy-five years afterwards, still powerful, 
still dangerous, still coming!" 

And I knew them too. I had seen them too, who had 
never been further from Frenchman's Bend than I could 
return by night to sleep. It was like the wheel, like the sun- 
set itself, hubbed at that little place that don't even show 
on a map, that not two hundred people out of all the earth 
know is named Frenchman's Bend or has any name at all, 
and spoking out in all the directions and touching them all, 
never a one too big for it to touch, never a one too little to 
be remembered: the places that men and women have 
lived in and loved whether they had anything to paint pic- 
tures of them with or not, all the little places quiet enough 
to be lived in and loved and the names of them before they 
were quiet enough, and the names of the deeds that made 
them quiet enough and the names of the men and the women 
who did the deeds, who lasted and endured and fought the 
battles and lost them and fought again because they didn't 
even know they had been whipped, and tamed the wilder- 
ness and overpassed the mountains and deserts and died and 
still went on as the shape of the United States grew and 
went on. I knew them too: the men and women still power- 
ful seventy-five years and twice that and twice that again 
afterward, still powerful and still dangerous and still com- 

Shall Not Perish 1 1 5 

ing, North and South and East and West, until the name of 
what they did and what they died for became just one single 
word, louder than any thunder. It was America, and it 
covered all the western earth. 


A Rose for Emily 

Centaur in Brass 

Dry September 

Death Drag 


Uncle Willy 

Mule in the Yard 

That Will Be Fine 

That Evening Sun 

A Rose for Emily 


WHEN Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to 
her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection 
for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity 
to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old man- 
servant a combined gardener and cook had seen in at 
least ten years. 

It was a big, squarish frame house that had once been 
white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled bal* 
conies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies, set on 
what had once been our most select street. But garages and 
cotton gins had encroached and obliterated even the august 
names of that neighborhood; only Miss Emily's house was 
left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the 
cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps an eyesore among 
eyesores. And now Miss Emily had gone to join the repre- 
sentatives of those august names where they lay in the cedar- 
bemused cemetery among the ranked and anonymous 
graves of Union and Confederate soldiers who fell at the 
battle of Jefferson. 

Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; 
a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town, dating from 
that day in 1 894 when Colonel Sartoris, the mayor he who 
fathered the edict that no Negro woman should appear on 


120 The Village 

the streets without an apron remitted her taxes, the dis- 
pensation dating from the death of her father on into 
perpetuity. Not that Miss Emily would have accepted 
charity. Colonel Sartoris invented an involved tale to the 
effect that Miss Emily's father had loaned money to the 
town, which the town, as a matter of business, preferred 
this way of repaying. Only a man of Colonel Sartoris' gen- 
eration and thought could have invented it, and only a 
woman could have believed it. 

When the next generation, with its more modern ideas, 
became mayors and aldermen, this arrangement created 
some little dissatisfaction. On the first of the year they mailed 
her a tax notice. February came, and there was no reply. 
They wrote her a formal letter, asking her to call at the 
sheriff's office at her convenience. A week later the mayor 
wrote her himself, offering to call or to send his car for her, 
and received in reply a note on paper of an archaic shape, 
in a thin, flowing calligraphy in faded ink, to the effect that 
she no longer went out at all. The tax notice was also en- 
closed, without comment. 

They called a special meeting of the Board of Aldermen. 
A deputation waited upon her, knocked at the door through 
which no visitor had passed since she ceased giving china- 
painting lessons eight or ten years earlier. They were ad- 
mitted by the old Negro into a dim hall from which a 
stairway mounted into still more shadow. It smelled of dust 
and disuse a close, dank smell. The Negro led them into 
the parlor. It was furnished in heavy, leather-covered furni- 
ture. When the Negro opened the blinds of one window, 
they could see that the leather was cracked; and when they 
sat down, a faint dust rose sluggishly about their thighs, 
spinning with slow motes in the single sun-ray. On a tar- 
nished gilt easel before the fireplace stood a crayon portrait 
of Miss Emily's father. 

A Rose for Emily i z i 

They rose when she entered a small, fat woman in 
black, with a thin gold chain descending to her waist and 
vanishing into her belt, leaning on an ebony cane with a 
tarnished gold head. Her skeleton was small and spare; per- 
haps that was why what would have been merely plumpness 
in another was obesity in her. She looked bloated, like a body 
long submerged in motionless water, and of that pallid hue. 
Her eyes, lost in the fatty ridges of her face, looked like 
two small pieces of coal pressed into a lump of dough as they 
moved from one face to another while the visitors stated 
their errand. 

She did not ask them to sit. She just stood in the door and 
listened quietly until the spokesman came to a stumbling 
halt. Then they could hear the invisible watch ticking at 
the end of the gold chain. 

Her voice was dry and cold. "I have no taxes in Jefferson. 
Colonel Sartoris explained it to me. Perhaps one of you can 
gain access to the city records and satisfy yourselves." 

"But we have. We are the city authorities, Miss Emily. 
Didn't you get a notice from the sheriff, signed by him?" 

"I received a paper, yes," Miss Emily said. "Perhaps he 
considers himself the sheriff ... I have no taxes in Jefferson." 

"But there is nothing on the books to show that, you see. 
We must go by the " 

"See Colonel Sartoris. I have no taxes in Jefferson." 

"But, Miss Emily" 

"See Colonel Sartoris." (Colonel Sartoris had been dead 
almost ten years.) "I have no taxes in Jefferson. Tobe!" The 
Negro appeared. "Show these gentlemen out." 


So SHE vanquished them, horse and foot, just as she had 
vanquished their fathers thirty years before about the smelL 

122 The Village 

That was two years after her father's death and a short rime 
after her sweetheart the one we believed would marry her 
had deserted her. After her father's death she went out 
very little; after her sweetheart went away, people hardly 
saw her at all. A few of the ladies had the temerity to call, 
but were not received, and the only sign of life about the 
place was the Negro man a young man then going in 
and out with a market basket. 

"Just as if a man any man could keep a kitchen prop- 
erly," the ladies said; so they were not surprised when the 
smell developed. It was another link between the gross, 
teeming world and the high and mighty Griersons. 

A neighbor, a woman, complained to the mayor, Judge 
Stevens, eighty years old. 

"But what will you have me do about it, madam?" he said. 

"Why, send her word to stop it," the woman said. "Isn't 
there a law?" 

"I'm sure that won't be necessary," Judge Stevens said. 
"It's probably just a snake or a rat that nigger of hers killed 
in the yard. I'll speak to him about it." 

The next day he received two more complaints, one from 
a man who came in diffident deprecation. "We really must 
do something about it, Judge. I'd be the last one in the world 
to bother Miss Emily, but we've got to do something." That 
night the Board of Aldermen met three graybeards and 
one younger man, a member of the rising generation. 

"It's simple enough," he said. "Send her word to have her 
place cleaned up. Give her a certain time to do it in, and if 
she don't . . ." 

"Dammit, sir," Judge Stevens said, "will you accuse a 
lady to her face of smelling bad?" 

So the next night, after midnight, four men crossed Miss 
Emily's lawn and slunk about the house like burglars, sniffing 
along the base of the brickwork and at the cellar openings 

A Rose for Emily 1 2 3 

while one of them performed a regular sowing motion with 
his hand out of a sack slung from his shoulder. They broke 
open the cellar door and sprinkled lime there, and in all the 
outbuildings. As they recrossed the lawn, a window that 
had been dark was lighted and Miss Emily sat in it, the light 
behind her, and her upright torso motionless as that of an 
idol. They crept quietly across the lawn and into the shadow 
of the locusts that lined the street. After a week or two the 
smell went away. 

That was when people had begun to feel really sorry for 
her. People in our town, remembering how old lady Wyatt, 
her great-aunt, had gone completely crazy at last, believed 
that the Griersons held themselves a little too high for what 
they really were. None of the young men were quite good 
enough for Miss Emily and such. We had long thought of 
them as a tableau, Miss Emily a slender figure in white in 
the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the 
foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the 
two of them framed by the back-flung front door. So when 
she got to be thirty and was still single, we were not pleased 
exactly, but vindicated; even with insanity in the family 
she wouldn't have turned down all of her chances if they 
had really materialized. 

When her father died, it got about that the house was 
all that was left to her; and in a way, people were glad. At 
last they could pity Miss Emily. Being left alone, and a 
pauper, she had become humanized. Now she too would 
know the old thrill and the old despair of a penny more or 

The day after his death all the ladies prepared to call at 
the house and offer condolence and aid, as is our custom. 
Miss Emily met them at the door, dressed as usual and with 
no trace of grief on her face. She told them that her father 
was not dead. She did that for three days, with the ministers 

124 The Village 

calling on her, and the doctors, trying to persuade her to 
let them dispose of the body. Just as they were about to 
resort to law and force, she broke down, and they buried 
her father quickly. 

We did not say she was crazy then. We believed she had 
to do that. We remembered all the young men her father 
had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she 
would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people 


SHE WAS SICK for a long time. When we saw her again, her 
hair was cut short, making her look like a girl, with a vague 
resemblance to those angels in colored church windows 
sort of tragic and serene. 

The town had just let the contracts for paving the side- 
walks, and in the summer after her father's death they began 
the work. The construction company came with niggers and 
mules and machinery, and a foreman named Homer Barron, 
a Yankee a big, dark, ready man, with a big voice and eyes 
lighter than his face. The little boys would follow in groups 
to hear him cuss the niggers, and the niggers singing in time 
to the rise and fall of picks. Pretty soon he knew every- 
body in town. Whenever you heard a lot of laughing any- 
where about the square, Homer Barron would be in the 
center of the group. Presently we began to see him and Miss 
Emily on Sunday afternoons driving in the yellow-wheeled 
buggy and the matched team of bays from the livery stable. 

At first we were glad that Miss Emily would have an 
interest, because the ladies all said, "Of course a Grierson 
would not think seriously of a Northerner, a day laborer.'* 
But there were still others, older people, who said that even 
grief could not cause a real lady to forget noblesse oblige 

A Rose for Emily 125 

without calling it noblesse oblige. They just said, "Poor 
Emily. Her kinsfolk should come to her." She had some kin 
in Alabama; but years ago her father had fallen out with 
them over the estate of old lady Wyatt, the crazy woman, 
and there was no communication between the two families. 
They had not even been represented at the funeral. 

And as soon as the old people said, "Poor Emily," the 
whispering began. "Do you suppose it's really so?" they said 
to one another. "Of course it is. What else could . . ." This 
behind their hands; rustling of craned silk and satin behind 
jalousies closed upon the sun of Sunday afternoon as the 
thin, swift clop-clop-clop of the matched team passed: "Poor 

She carried her head high enough even when we believed 
that she was fallen. It was as if she demanded more than ever 
the recognition of her dignity as the last Grierson; as if it 
had wanted that touch of earthiness to reaffirm her imper- 
viousness. Like when she bought the rat poison, the arsenic. 
That was over a year after they had begun to say "Poor 
Emily," and while the two female cousins were visiting her. 

"I want some poison," she said to the druggist. She was 
over thirty then, still a slight woman, though thinner than 
usual, with cold, haughty black eyes in a face the flesh of 
which was strained across the temples and about the eye- 
sockets as you imagine a lighthouse-keeper's face ought to 
look. "I want some poison," she said. 

"Yes, Miss Emily. What kind? For rats and such? I'd 
recom " 

"I want the best you have. I don't care what kind." 

The druggist named several. "They'll kill anything up 
to an elephant. But what you want is " 

"Arsenic," Miss Emily said. "Is that a good one?" 

"Is . . . arsenic? Yes, ma'am. But what you want " 

"I want arsenic." 

The Village 

The druggist looked down at her. She looked back at him, 
erect, her face like a strained flag. "Why, of course," the 
druggist said. "If that's what you want. But the law requires 
you to tell what you are going to use it for." 

Miss Emily just stared at him, her head tilted back in 
order to look him eye for eye, until he looked away and 
went and got the arsenic and wrapped it up. The Negro 
delivery boy brought her the package; the druggist didn't 
come back. When she opened the package at home there 
was written on the box, under the skull and bones: "For 


So THE NEXT day we all said, "She will kill herself"; and we 
said it would be the best thing. When she had first begun 
to be seen with Homer Barron, we had said, "She will marry 
him." Then we said, "She will persuade him yet," because 
Homer himself had remarked he liked men, and it was 
known that he drank with the younger men in the Elks' 
Club that he was not a marrying man. Later we said, 
"Poor Emily" behind the jalousies as they passed on Sunday 
afternoon in the glittering buggy, Miss Emily with her head 
high and Homer Barron with his hat cocked and a cigar in 
his teeth, reins and whip in a yellow glove. 

Then some of the ladies began to say that it was a disgrace 
to the town and a bad example to the young people. The 
men did not want to interfere, but at last the ladies forced 
the Baptist minister Miss Emily's people were Episcopal 
to call upon her. He would never divulge what happened 
during that interview, but he refused to go back again. The 
next Sunday they again drove about the streets, and the 
following day the minister's wife wrote to Miss Emily's 
relations in Alabama. 

A Rose for Emily 127 

So she had blood-kin under her roof again and we sat 
back to watch developments. At first nothing happened. 
Then we were sure that they were to be married. We learned 
that Miss Emily had been to the jeweler's and ordered a 
man's toilet set in silver, with the letters H. B. on each piece. 
Two days later we learned that she had bought a complete 
outfit of men's clothing, including a nightshirt, and we said, 
"They are married." We were really glad. We were glad 
because the two female cousins were even more Grierson 
than Miss Emily had ever been. 

So we were not surprised when Homer Barron the 
streets had been finished some time since was gone. We 
were a little disappointed that there was not a public blow- 
ing-off , bur we believed that he had gone on to prepare for 
Miss Emily's coming, or to give her a chance to get rid of 
the cousins. (By that time it was a cabal, and we were all 
Miss Emily's allies to help circumvent the cousins.) Sure 
enough, after another week they departed. And, as we had 
expected all along, within three days Homer Barron was 
back in town. A neighbor saw the Negro man admit him at 
the kitchen door at dusk one evening. 

And that was the last we saw of Homer Barron. And of 
Miss Emily for some time. The Negro man went in and out 
with the market basket, but the front door remained closed. 
Now and then we would see her at a window for a moment, 
as the men did that night when they sprinkled the lime, but 
for almost six months she did not appear on the streets. Then 
we knew that this was to be expected too; as if that quality 
of her father which had thwarted her woman's life so many 
times had been too virulent and too furious to die. 

When we next saw Miss Emily, she had grown fat and 
her hair was turning gray. During the next few years it 
grew grayer and grayer until it attained an even pepper-and- 
salt iron-gray, when it ceased turning. Up to the dav of her 

ii8 The Village 

death at seventy-four it was still that vigorous iron-gray, 
like the hair of an active man. 

From that time on her front door remained closed, save 
for a period of six or seven years, when she was about forty, 
during which she gave lessons in china-painting. She fitted 
up a studio in one of the downstairs rooms, where the 
daughters and granddaughters of Colonel Sartoris' contem- 
poraries were sent to her with the same regularity and in the 
same spirit that they were sent to church on Sundays with 
a twenty-five-cent piece for the collection plate. Meanwhile 
her taxes had been remitted. 

Then the newer generation became the backbone and 
the spirit of the town, and the painting pupils grew up and 
fell away and did not send their children to her with boxes 
of color and tedious brushes and pictures cut from the 
ladies' magazines. The front door closed upon the last one 
and remained closed for good. When the town got free 
postal delivery, Miss Emily alone refused to let them fasten 
the metal numbers above her door and attach a mailbox to 
it. She would not listen to them. 

Daily, monthly, yearly we watched the Negro grow grayer 
and more stooped, going in and out with the market basket 
Each December we sent her a tax notice, which would be 
returned by the post office a week later, unclaimed. Now and 
then we would see her in one of the downstairs windows 
she had evidently shut up the top floor of the house like 
the carven torso of an idol in a niche, looking or not looking 
at us, we could never tell which. Thus she passed from gen- 
eration to generation dear, inescapable, impervious, tran- 
quil, and perverse. 

And so she died. Fell ill in the house filled with dust and 
shadows, with only a doddering Negro man to wait on her. 
We did not even know she was sick; we had long since 
given up trying to get any information from the Negro 

A Rose for Emily 129 

He talked to no one, probably not even to her, for his voice 
had grown harsh and rusty, as if from disuse. 

She died in one of the downstairs rooms, in a heavy 
walnut bed with a curtain, her gray head propped on a pillow 
yellow and moldy with age and lack of sunlight. 


THE NEGRO met the first of the ladies at the front door and 
let them in, with their hushed, sibilant voices and their quick, 
curious glances, and then he disappeared. He walked right 
through the house and out the back and was not seen again. 

The two female cousins came at once. They held the 
funeral on the second day, with the town coming to look 
at Miss Emily beneath a mass of bought flowers, with the 
crayon face of her father musing profoundly above the bier 
and the ladies sibilant and macabre; and the very old men 
some in their brushed Confederate uniforms on the porch 
and the lawn, talking of Miss Emily as if she had been a con- 
temporary of theirs, believing that they had danced with 
her and courted her perhaps, confusing time with its math- 
ematical progression, as the old do, to whom all the past is 
not a diminishing road but, instead, a huge meadow which 
no winter ever quite touches, divided from them now by the 
narrow bottle-neck of the most recent decade of years. 

Already we knew that there was one room in that region 
above stairs which no one had seen in forty years, and which 
would have to be forced. They waited until Miss Emily 
was decently in the ground before they opened it. 

The violence of breaking down the door seemed to fill 
this room with pervading dust. A thin, acrid pall as of the 
tomb seemed to lie everywhere upon this room decked and 
furnished as for a bridal: upon the valance curtains of faded 
rose color, upon the rose-shaded lights, upon the dressing 

130 The Village 

table, upon the delicate array of crystal and the man's toilet 
things backed with tarnished silver, silver so tarnished that 
the monogram was obscured. Among them lay a collar and 
tie, as if they had just been removed, which, lifted, left upon 
the surface a pale crescent in the dust. Upon a chair hung 
the suit, carefully folded; beneath it the two mute shoes 
and the discarded socks. 

The man himself lay in the bed. 

For a long while we just stood there, looking down at the 
profound and fleshless grin. The body had apparently once 
lain in the attitude of an embrace, but now the long sleep 
that outlasts love, that conquers even the grimace of love, 
had cuckolded him. What was left of him, rotted beneath 
what was left of the nightshirt, had become inextricable 
from the bed in which he lay; and upon him and upon the 
pillow beside him lay that even coating of the patient and 
biding dust. 

Then we noticed that in the second pillow was the inden- 
tation of a head. One of us lifted something from it, and 
leaning forward, that faint and invisible dust dry and acrid 
in the nostrils, we saw a long strand of iron-gray hair. 


THIS GIRL, this Susan Reed, was an orphan. She lived with 
a family named Burchett, that had some more children, two 
or three more. Some said that Susan was a niece or a cousin 
or something; others cast the usual aspersions on the char- 
acter of Burchett and even of Mrs. Burchett: you know. 
Women mostly, these were. 

She was about five when Hawkshaw first came to town. 
It was his first summer behind that chair in Maxey's barber 
shop that Mrs Burchett brought Susan in for the first time. 
Maxey told me about how him and the other barbers watched 
Mrs Burchett trying for three days to get Susan (she was 
a thin little girl then, with big scared eyes and this straight, 
soft hair not blonde and not brunette) into the shop. And 
Maxey told how at last it was Hawkshaw that went out 
into the street and worked with the girl for about fifteen 
minutes until he got her into the shop and into his chair 
him that hadn't never said more than Yes or No to any man 
or woman in the town that anybody ever saw. "Be durn if 
it didn't look like Hawkshaw had been waiting for her to 
come along," Maxey told me. 

That was her first haircut. Hawkshaw gave it to her, and 
her sitting there under the cloth like a little scared rabbit. 
But six months after that she was coming to the shop by 

132 The Village 

herself and letting Hawkshaw cut her hair, still looking like 
a little old rabbit, with her scared face and those big eyes 
and that hair without any special name showing above the 
cloth. If Hawkshaw was busy, Maxey said she would come 
in and sit on the waiting bench close to his chair with her 
legs sticking straight out in front of her until Hawkshaw 
got done. Maxey says they considered her Hawkshaw's client 
the same as if she had been a Saturday night shaving cus- 
tomer. He says that one time the other barber, Matt Fox, 
offered to wait on her, Hawkshaw being busy, and that 
Hawkshaw looked up like a flash. "I'll be done in a minute," 
he says. "Pll tend to her." Maxey told me that Hawkshaw 
had been working for him for almost a year then, but that 
was the first time he ever heard him speak positive about 

That fall the girl started to school. She would pass the 
barber shop each morning and afternoon. She was still shy, 
walking fast like little girls do, with that yellow-brown head 
of hers passing the window level and fast like she was on 
skates. She was always by herself at first, but pretty soon 
her head would be one of a clump of other heads, all talking, 
not looking toward the window at all, and Hawkshaw stand- 
ing there in the window, looking out. Maxey said him and 
Matt would not have to look at the clock at all to tell when 
five minutes to eight and to three o'clock came, because they 
could tell by Hawkshaw. It was like he would kind of drift 
up to the window without watching himself do it, and be 
looking out about the time for the school children to begin 
to pass. When she would come to the shop for a haircut, 
Hawkshaw would give her two or three of those pepper- 
mints where he would give the other children just one, 
Maxey told me. 

No; it was Matt Fox, the other barber, told me that. He 
was the one who told me about the doll Hawkshaw gave her 

Hair 1 3 3 

on Christmas. I don't know how he found it out. Hawkshaw 
never told him. But he knew some way; he knew more about 
Hawkshaw than Maxey did. He was a married man himself, 
Matt was. A kind of fat, flabby fellow, with a pasty face 
and eyes that looked tired or sad something. A funny 
fellow, and almost as good a barber as Hawkshaw. He never 
talked much either, and I don't know how he could have 
known so much about Hawkshaw when a talking man 
couldn't get much out of him. I guess maybe a talking man 
hasn't got the time to ever learn much about anything except 

Anyway, Matt told me about how Hawkshaw gave her 
a present every Christmas, even after she got to be a big girl. 
She still came to him, to his chair, and him watching her 
every morning and afternoon when she passed to and from 
school. A big girl, and she wasn't shy any more. 

You wouldn't have thought she was the same girl. She 
got grown fast. Too fast. That was the trouble. Some said it 
was being an orphan and all. But it wasn't that. Girls are 
different from boys. Girls are born weaned and boys don't 
ever get weaned. You see one sixty years old, and be damned 
if he won't go back to the perambulator at the bat of an eye. 

It's not that she was bad. There's not any such thing as a 
woman born bad, because they are all born bad, born with 
the badness in them. The thing is, to get them married before 
the badness comes to a natural head. But we try to make 
them conform to a system that says a woman can't be mar- 
ried until she reaches a certain age. And nature don't pay 
any attention to systems, let alone women paying any atten- 
tion to them, or to anything. She just grew up too fast. She 
reached the point where the badness came to a head before 
the system said it was time for her to. I think they can't help 
it. I have a daughter of my own, and I say that. 

So there she was. Matt told me they figured up and she 

134 The Village 

couldn't have been more than thirteen when Mrs Burchett 
whipped her one day for using rouge and paint, and during 
that year, he said, they would see her with two or three 
other girls giggling and laughing on the street at all hours 
when they should have been in school; still thin, with that 
hair still not blonde and not brunette, with her face caked 
with paint until you would have thought it would crack 
like dried mud when she laughed, with the regular simple 
gingham and such dresses that a thirteen-year-old child 
ought to wear pulled and dragged to show off what she 
never had yet to show off, like the older girls did with their 
silk and crepe and such. 

Matt said he watched her pass one day, when all of a 
sudden he realized she never had any stockings on. He said 
he thought about it and he said he could not remember that 
she ever did wear stockings in the summer, until he realized 
that what he had noticed was not the lack of stockings, but 
that her legs were like a woman's legs: female. And her only 

I say she couldn't help herself. It wasn't her fault. And 
it wasn't Burchett's fault, either. Why, nobody can be as 
gentle with them, the bad ones, the ones that are unlucky 
enough to come to a head too soon, as men. Look at the 
way they all the men in town treated Hawkshaw. Even 
after folks knew, after all the talk began, there wasn't a man 
of them talked before Hawkshaw. I reckon they thought 
he knew too, had heard some of the talk, but whenever they 
talked about her in the shop, it was while Hawkshaw was 
not there. And I reckon the other men were the same, be- 
cause there was not a one of them that hadn't seen Hawk- 
shaw at the window, looking at her when she passed, or 
looking at her on the street; happening to kind of be passing 
the picture show when it let out and she would come out 
with some fellow, having begun to go with them before she 

Hair 135 

was fourteen. Folks said how she would have to slip out and 
meet them and slip back into the house again with Mrs 
Burchett thinking she was at the home of a girl friend. 

They never talked about her before Hawkshaw. They 
would wait until he was gone, to dinner, or on one of those 
two- weeks' vacations of his in April that never anybody 
could find out about; where he went or anything. But he 
would be gone, and they would watch the girl slipping 
around, skirting trouble, bound to get into it sooner or later, 
even if Burchett didn't hear something first. She had quit 
school a year ago. For a year Burchett and Mrs Burchett 
thought that she was going to school every day, when she 
hadn't been inside the building even. Somebody one of the 
high-school boys maybe, but she never drew any lines: 
schoolboys, married men, anybody would get her a report 
card every month and she would fill it out herself and take 
it home for Mrs Burchett to sign. It beats the devil how the 
folks that love a woman will let her fool them. 

So she quit school and went to work in the ten-cent store. 
She would come to the shop for a haircut, all painted up, 
in some kind of little flimsy off-color clothes that showed 
her off, with her face watchful and bold and discreet all at 
once, and her hair gummed and twisted about her face. But 
even the stuff she put on it couldn't change that brown- 
yellow color. Her hair hadn't changed at all. She wouldn't 
always go to Hawkshaw's chair. Even when his chair was 
empty, she would sometimes take one of the others, talking 
to the barbers, filling the whole shop with noise and perfume 
and her legs sticking out from under the cloth. Hawkshaw 
wouldn't look at her then. Even when he wasn't busy, he 
had a way of looking the same: intent and down-looking 
like he was making out to be busy, hiding behind the mak- 

That was how it was when he left two weeks ago on that 

136 The Village 

April vacation of his, that secret trip that folks had given up 
trying to find where he went ten years ago. I made Jefferson 
a couple of days after he left, and I was in the shop. They 
were talking about him and her. 

"Is he still giving her Christmas presents?" I said. 

"He bought her a wrist watch two years ago," Matt Fox 
said. "Paid sixty dollars for it." 

Maxey was shaving a customer. He stopped, the razor in 
his hand, the blade loaded with lather. "Well, I'll be durned," 
he said. "Then he must You reckon he was the first one, 
the one that " 

Matt hadn't looked around. "He aint give it to her yet," 
he said. 

"Well, durn his tight-fisted time," Maxey said. "Any old 
man that will fool with a young girl, he's pretty bad. But a 
fellow that will trick one and then not even pay her noth- 

Matt looked around now; he was shaving a customer too. 
"What would you say if you heard that the reason he aint 
give it to her is that he thinks she is too young to receive 
jewelry from anybody that aint kin to her?" 

"You mean, he dont know? He dont know what every- 
body else in this town except maybe Mr and Mrs Burchett 
has knowed for three years?" 

Matt went back to work again, his elbow moving steady, 
the razor moving in little jerks. "How would he know? 
Aint anybody but a woman going to tell him. And he dont 
know any women except Mrs Cowan. And I reckon she 
thinks he's done heard." 

"That's a fact," Maxey says. 

That was how things were when he went off on his vaca- 
tion two weeks ago. I worked Jefferson in a day and a half, 
and went on. In the middle of the next week I reached 

Hair 137 

Division. I didn't hurry. I wanted to give him time. It was 
on a Wednesday morning I got there. 


IF THERE HAD BEEN love once, a man would have said that 
Hawkshaw had forgotten her. Meaning love, of course. 
When I first saw him thirteen years ago (I had just gone on 
the road then, making North Mississippi and Alabama with 
a line of work shirts and overalls) behind a chair in the 
barber shop in Porterfield, I said, "Here is a bachelor born. 
Here is a man who was born single and forty years old." 

A little, sandy-complected man with a face you would 
not remember and would not recognize again ten minutes 
later, in a blue serge suit and a black bow tie, the kind that 
snaps together in the back, that you buy already tied in the 
store. Maxey told me he was still wearing that serge suit and 
tie when he got off the south-bound train in Jefferson a 
year later, carrying one of these imitation leather suitcases. 
And when I saw him again in Jefferson in the next year, 
behind a chair in Maxey 's shop, if it had not been for the 
chair I wouldn't have recognized him at all. Same face, same 
tie; be damned if it wasn't like they had picked him up, 
chair, customer and all, and set him down sixty miles away 
without him missing a lick. I had to look back out the win- 
dow at the square to be sure I wasn't in Porterfield myself 
any time a year ago. And that was the first time I realized 
that when I had made Porterfield about six weeks back, he 
had not been there. 

It was three years after that before I found out about him. 
I would make Division about five times a year a store and 
four or five houses and a sawmill on the State line between 
Mississippi and Alabama. I had noticed a house there. It was 
a good house, one of the best there, and it was always closed. 

138 The Village 

When I would make Division in the late spring or the early 
summer there would always be signs of work around the 
house. The yard would be cleaned up of weeds, and the 
flower beds tended to and the fences and roof fixed. Then 
when I would get back to Division along in the fall or the 
winter, the yard would be grown up in weeds again, and 
maybe some of the pickets gone off the fence where folks 
had pulled them off to mend their own fences or maybe for 
firewood; I dont know. And the house would be always 
closed; never any smoke at the kitchen chimney. So one day 
I asked the storekeeper about it and he told me. 

It had belonged to a man named Starnes, but the family 
was all dead. They were considered the best folks, because 
they owned some land, mortgaged. Starnes was one of these 
lazy men that was satisfied to be a landowner as long as he 
had enough to eat and a little tobacco. They had one daugh- 
ter that went and got herself engaged to a young fellow, 
son of a tenant farmer. The mother didn't like the idea, but 
Starnes didn't seem to object. Maybe because the young 
fellow (his name was Stribling) was a hard worker; maybe 
because Starnes was just too lazy to object. Anyway, they 
were engaged and Stribling saved his money and went to 
Birmingham to learn barbering. Rode part of the way in 
wagons and walked the rest, coming back each summer to 
see the girl. 

Then one day Starnes died, sitting in his chair on the 
porch; they said that he was too lazy to keep on breathing, 
and they sent for Stribling. I heard he had built up a good 
trade of his own in the Birmingham shop, saving his money; 
they told me he had done picked out the apartment and 
paid down on the furniture and all, and that they were to be 
married that summer. He came back. All Starnes had ever 
raised was a mortgage, so Stribling paid for the burial. It 
cost a right smart, more than Starnes was worth, but Mrs 

Hair 139 

Starnes had to be suited. So Stribling had to start saving 

But he had already leased the apartment and paid down 
on the furniture and the ring and he had bought the wedding 
license when they sent for him again in a hurry. It was the 
girl this time. She had some kind of fever. These backwoods 
folks: you know how it is. No doctors, or veterinaries, if 
they are. Cut them and shoot them: that's all right. But let 
them get a bad cold and maybe they'll get well or maybe 
they'll die two days later of cholera. She was delirious when 
Stribling got there. They had to cut all her hair off. Strib- 
ling did that, being an expert you might say; a professional 
in the family. They told me she was one of these thin, un- 
healthy girls anyway, with a lot of straight hair not brown 
and not yellow. 

She never knew him, never knew who cut off her hair. 
She died so, without knowing anything about it, without 
knowing even that she died, maybe. She just kept on saying, 
"Take care of maw. The mortgage. Paw wont like it to be 
left so. Send for Henry (That was him: Henry Stribling; 
Hawkshaw: I saw him the next year in Jefferson. "So you're 
Henry Stribling," I said). The mortgage. Take care of maw. 
Send for Henry. The mortgage. Send for Henry." Then 
she died. There was a picture of her, the only one they had. 
Hawkshaw sent it, with a lock of the hair he had cut off, to 
an address in a farm magazine, to have the hair made into 
a frame for the picture. But they both got lost, the hair and 
the picture, in the mail somehow. Anyway he never got 
either of them back. 

He buried the girl too, and the next year (he had to go 
back to Birmingham and get shut of the apartment which he 
had engaged and let the furniture go so he could save again) 
he put a headstone over her grave. Then he went away 
again and they heard how he had quit the Birmingham shop. 

140 The Village 

He just quit and disappeared, and they all saying how in 
time he would have owned the shop. But he quit, and next 
April, just before the anniversary of the girl's death, he 
showed up again. He came to see Mrs Starnes and went 
away again in two weeks. 

After he was gone they found out how he had stopped 
at the bank at the county seat and paid the interest on the 
mortgage. He did that every year until Mrs Starnes died. 
She happened to die while he was there. He would spend 
about two weeks cleaning up the place and fixing it so she 
would be comfortable for another year, and she letting him, 
being as she was better born than him; being as he was one 
of these parveynoos. Then she died too. "You know what 
Sophie said to do," she says. "That mortgage. Mr Starnes 
will be worried when I see him." 

So he buried her too. He bought another headstone, to 
suit her. Then he begun to pay the principal on the mort- 
gage. Starnes had some kin in Alabama. The folks in Divi- 
sion expected the kin to come and claim the place. But maybe 
the kin were waiting until Hawkshaw had got the mortgage 
cleared. He made the payment each year, coming back and 
cleaning up the place. They said he would clean up that 
house inside like a woman, washing and scrubbing it. It 
would take him two weeks each April. Then he would go 
away again, nobody knew where, returning each April to 
make the payment at the bank and clean up that empty 
house that never belonged to him. 

He had been doing that for about five years when I saw 
him in Maxey's shop in Jefferson, the year after I saw him 
in a shop in Porterfield, in that serge suit and that black 
bow tie. Maxey said he had them on when he got off the 
south-bound train that day in Jefferson, carrying that paper 
suitcase. Maxey said they watched him for two days about 
the square, him not seeming to know anybody or to have 

Hair 141 

any business or to be in any hurry; just walking about the 
square like he was just looking around. 

It was the young fellows, the loafers that pitch dollars all 
day long in the clubhouse yard, waiting for the young girls 
to come giggling down to the post office and the soda foun- 
tain in the late afternoon, working their hips under their 
dresses, leaving the smell of perfume when they pass, that 
gave him his name. They said he was a detective, maybe 
because that was the last thing in the world anybody would 
suspect him to be. So they named him Hawkshaw, and 
Hawkshaw he remained for the twelve years he stayed in 
Jefferson, behind that chair in Maxey's shop. He told Maxey 
he was from Alabama. 

"What part?" Maxey said. "Alabama's a big place. 
Birmingham?" Maxey said, because Hawkshaw looked like 
he might have come from almost anywhere in Alabama 
except Birmingham. 

"Yes," Hawkshaw said. "Birmingham." 

And that was all they ever got out of him until I hap- 
pened to notice him behind the chair and to remember him 
back in Porterfield. 

"Porterfield?" Maxey said. "My brother-in-law owns that 
shop. You mean you worked in Porterfield last year?" 

"Yes," Hawkshaw said. "I was there." 

Maxey told me about the vacation business. How Hawk- 
shaw wouldn't take his summer vacation; said he wanted 
two weeks in April instead. He wouldn't tell why. Maxey 
said April was too busy for vacations, and Hawkshaw 
offered to work until then, and quit. "Do you want to quit 
then?" Maxey said that was in the summer, after Mrs 
Burchett had brought Susan Reed to the shop for the first 

"No," Hawkshaw said. "I like it here. I just want two 
weeks off in April." 

142 The Village 

"On business?" Maxey said. 

"On business," Hawkshaw said. 

When Maxey took his vacation, he went to Porterfield to 
visit his brother-in-law; maybe shaving his brother-in-law's 
customers, like a sailor will spend his vacation in a rowboat 
on an artificial lake. The brother-in-law told him Hawkshaw 
had worked in his shop, would not take a vacation until 
April, went off and never came back. "He'll quit you the 
same way," the brother-in-law said. "He worked in a shop 
in Bolivar, Tennessee, and in one in Florence, Alabama, for 
a year and quit the same way. He wont come back. You 
watch and see." 

Maxey said he came back home and he finally got it out 
of Hawkshaw how he had worked for a year each in six or 
eight different towns in Alabama and Tennessee and Missis- 
sippi. "Why did you quit them?" Maxey said. "You are a 
good barber; one of the best children's barbers I ever saw. 
Why did you quit?" 

"I was just looking around," Hawkshaw said. 

Then April came, and he took his two weeks. He shaved 
himself and packed up that paper suitcase and took the 
north-bound train. 

"Going on a visit, I reckon," Maxey said. 

"Up the road a piece," Hawkshaw said. 

So he went away, in that serge suit and black bow tie. 
Maxey told me how, two days later, it got out how Hawk- 
shaw had drawn from the bank his year's savings. He 
boarded at Mrs Cowan's and he had joined the church and 
he spent no money at all. He didn't even smoke. So Maxey 
and Matt and I reckon everybody else in Jefferson thought 
that he had saved up steam for a year and was now bound 
on one of these private sabbaticals among the fleshpots of 
Memphis. Mitch Ewing, the depot freight agent, lived at 
Mrs Cowan's too. He told how Hawkshaw had bought his 

Hair 143 

ticket only to the junction-point. "From there he can go to 
either Memphis or Birmingham or New Orleans," Mitch 

"Well, he's gone, anyway," Maxey said. "And mark my 
words, that's the last you'll see of that fellow in this town." 

And that's what everybody thought until two weeks later. 
On the fifteenth day Hawkshaw came walking into the shop 
at his regular time, like he hadn't even been out of town, 
and took off his coat and begun to hone his razors. He never 
told anybody where he had been. Just up the road a piece. 

Sometimes I thought I would tell them. I would make 
Jefferson and find him there behind that chair. He didn't 
change, grow any older in the face, any more than that Reed 
girl's hair changed, for all the gum and dye she put on it. 
But there he would be, back from his vacation "up the road 
a piece," saving his money for another year, going to church 
on Sunday, keeping that sack of peppermints for the children 
that came to him to be barbered, until it was time to take 
that paper suitcase and his year's savings and go back to 
Division to pay on the mortgage and clean up the house. 

Sometimes he would be gone when I got to Jefferson, and 
Maxey would tell me about him cutting that Reed girl's 
hair, snipping and snipping it and holding the mirror up for 
her to see like she was an actress. "He dont charge her," 
Matt Fox said. "He pays the quarter into the register out of 
his own pocket." 

"Well, that's his business," Maxey said. "All I want is the 
quarter. I dont care where it comes from." 

Five years later maybe I would have said, "Maybe that's 
her price." Because she got in trouble at last. Or so they 
said. I dont know, except that most of the talk about girls, 
women, is envy or retaliation by the ones that dont dare to 
and the ones that failed to. But while he was gone one April 

144 The Village 

they were whispering how she had got in trouble at last 
and had tried to doctor herself with turpentine and was bad 

Anyhow, she was off the streets for about three months; 
some said in a hospital in Memphis, and when she came into 
the shop again she took Matt's chair, though Hawkshaw's 
was empty at the time, like she had already done before to 
devil him, maybe. Maxey said she looked like a painted 
ghost, gaunt and hard, for all her bright dress and such, 
sitting there in Matt's chair, filling the whole shop with her 
talking and her laughing and her perfume and her long, 
naked-looking legs, and Hawkshaw making out he was busy 
at his empty chair. 

Sometimes I thought I would tell them. But I never told 
anybody except Gavin Stevens. He is the district attorney, 
a smart man: not like the usual pedagogue lawyer and office 
holder. He went to Harvard, and when my health broke 
down (I used to be a bookkeeper in a Gordonville bank and 
my health broke down and I met Stevens on a Memphis 
train when I was coming home from the hospital) it was 
him that suggested I try the road and got me my position 
with this company. I told him about it two years ago. "And 
now the girl has gone bad on him, and he's too old to hunt 
up another one and raise her," I said. "And some day he'll 
have the place paid out and those Alabama Starnes can come 
and take it, and he'll be through. Then what do you think 
he will do?" 

"I dont know," Stevens said. 

"Maybe he'll just go off and die," I said. 

"Maybe he will," Stevens said. 

"Well," I said, "he wont be the first man to tilt at wind- 

"He wont be the first man to die, either," Stevens said. 

Hair 145 


So LAST WEEK I went on to Division. I got there on a 
Wednesday. When I saw the house, it had just been painted. 
The storekeeper told me that the payment Hawkshaw had 
made was the last one; that Starnes' mortgage was clear. 
"Them Alabama Starnes can come and take it now," he said. 

"Anyway, Hawkshaw did what he promised her, prom- 
ised Mrs Starnes," I said. 

"Hawkshaw?" he said. "Is that what they call him? Well, 
I'll be durned. Hawkshaw. Well, I'll be durned." 

It was three months before I made Jefferson again. When 
I passed the barber shop I looked in without stopping. And 
there was another fellow behind Hawkshaw's chair, a young 
fellow. "I wonder if Hawk left his sack of peppermints," I 
said to myself. But I didn't stop. I just thought, 'Well, he's 
gone at last/ wondering just where he would be when old 
age got him and he couldn't move again; if he would prob- 
ably die behind a chair somewhere in a little three-chair 
country shop, in his shirt sleeves and that black tie and those 
serge pants. 

I went on and saw my customers and had dinner, and in 
the afternoon I went to Stevens' office. "I see you've got a 
new barber in town," I said. 

"Yes," Stevens said. He looked at me a while, then he said, 
"You haven't heard?" 

"Heard what?" I said. Then he quit looking at me. 

"I got your letter," he said, "that Hawkshaw had paid off 
the mortgage and painted the house. Tell me about it." 

So I told him how I got to Division the day after Hawk- 
shaw had left. They were talking about him on the porch 
of the store, wondering just when those Alabama Starnes 
would come in. He had painted the house himself, and he 
had cleaned up the two graves; I dont reckon he wanted to 

146 The Village 

disturb Starnes by cleaning his. I went up to see them. He 
had even scrubbed the headstones, and he had set out an 
apple shoot over the girl's grave. It was in bloom, and what 
with the folks all talking about him, I got curious too, to 
see the inside of that house. The storekeeper had the key, 
and he said he reckoned it would be all right with Hawk- 

It was clean inside as a hospital. The stove was polished 
and the woodbox filled. The storekeeper told me Hawkshaw 
did that every year, filled the woodbox before he left. 
"Those Alabama kinsfolk will appreciate that," I said. We 
went on back to the parlor. There was a melodeon in the 
corner, and a lamp and a Bible on the table. The lamp was 
clean, the bowl empty and clean too; you couldn't even 
smell oil on it. That wedding license was framed, hanging 
above the mantel like a picture. It was dated April 4, 1905. 

"Here's where he keeps that mortgage record," the store- 
keeper (his name is Bidwell) said. He went to the table and 
opened the Bible. The front page was the births and deaths, 
two columns. The girl's name was Sophie. I found her name 
in the birth column, and on the death side it was next to the 
last one. Mrs Starnes had written it. It looked like it might 
have taken her ten minutes to write it down. It looked like 

Sofy starnes Dide april 16 th 1905 

Hawkshaw wrote the last one himself; it was neat and 
well written, like a bookkeeper's hand: 

Mrs Will Starnes. April 23, 1916. 

"The record will be in the back," Bidwell said. 

We turned to the back. It was there, in a neat column, in 
Hawkshaw's hand. It began with April 16, 1917, $200.00. 
The next one was when he made the next payment at the 

Hair 147 

bank: April 16, 1918, $200.00; and April 16, 1919, $200.00; 
and April 16, 1920, $200.00; and on to the last one: April 
1 6, 1930, $200.00. Then he had totaled the column and 
written under it: 

"Paid in full. April 16, 1930." 

It looked like a sentence written in a copy book in the old- 
time business colleges, like it had flourished, the pen had, in 
spite of him. It didn't look like it was written boastful; it 
just flourished somehow, the end of it, like it had run out 
of the pen somehow before he could stop it. 

"So he did what he promised her he would," Stevens said. 

"That's what I told Bidwell," I said. 

Stevens went on like he wasn't listening to me much. 

"So the old lady could rest quiet. I guess that's what the 
pen was trying to say when it ran away from him: that 
now she could lie quiet. And he's not much over forty-five. 
Not so much anyway. Not so much but what, when he wrote 
'Paid in full' under that column, time and despair rushed as 
slow and dark under him as under any garlanded boy or 
crownless and crestless girl." 

"Only the girl went bad on him," I said. "Forty-five's 
pretty late to set out to find another. He'll be fifty-five at 
least by then." 

Stevens looked at me then. "I didn't think you had heard," 
he said. 

"Yes," I said. "That is, I looked in the barber shop when 
I passed. But I knew he would be gone. I knew all the time 
he would move on, once he had that mortgage cleared. 
Maybe he never knew about the girl, anyway. Or likely he 
knew and didn't care." 

"You think he didn't know about her?" 

"I dont see how he could have helped it. But I dont know. 
What do you think?" 

148 The Village 

"I dont know. I dont think I want to know. I know some- 
thing so much better than that." 

"What's that?" I said. He was looking at me. "You keep 
on telling me I haven't heard the news. What is it I haven't 

"About the girl," Stevens said. He looked at me. 

"On the night Hawkshaw came back from his last vaca- 
tion, they were married. He took her with him this time." 

Centaur in Brass 

IN OUR TOWN Flem Snopes now has a monument to himself v 
a monument of brass, none the less enduring for the fact that, 
though it is constantly in sight of the whole town and visible 
from three or four points miles out in the country, only four 
people, two white men and two Negroes, know that it is his 
monument, or that it is a monument at all. 

He came to Jefferson from the country, accompanied by 
his wife and infant daughter and preceded by a reputation for 
shrewd and secret dealing. There lives in our county a sew- 
ing-machine agent riamed Suratt, who used to own a half 
interest in a small back-street restaurant in town himself 
no mean hand at that technically unassailable opportunism 
which passes with country folks and town folks, too for 
honest shrewdness. 

He travels about the county steadily and constantly, and 
it was through him that Snope's doings first came to our ears: 
how first, a clerk in a country store, Snopes one day and to 
everyone's astonishment was married to the store owner's 
daughter, a young girl who was the belle of the countryside. 
They were married suddenly, on the same day upon which 
three of the girl's erstwhile suitors left the county and were 
seen no more. 

Soon after the wedding Snopes and his wife moved to 
Texas, from where the wif e returned a year later with a well- 


150 The Village 

grown baby. A month later Snopes himself returned, ac- 
companied by a broad-hatted stranger and a herd of half- 
wild mustang ponies, which the stranger auctioned off, 
collected the money, and departed. Then the purchasers dis- 
covered that none of the ponies had ever had a bridle on. But 
they never learned if Snopes had had any part in the business, 
or had received any part of the money. 

The next we heard of him was when he appeared one day 
in a wagon laden with his family and household goods, and 
with a bill-of-sale for Suratt's half of the restaurant. How he 
got the bill-of-sale, Suratt never told, and we never learned 
more than that there was somehow involved in the affair a 
worthless piece of land which had been a portion of Mrs. 
Snopes's dowry. But what the business was even Suratt, a 
humorous, talkative man who was as ready to laugh at a joke 
on himself as at one on anyone else, never told. But when he 
mentioned Snopes's name after that, it was in a tone of sav- 
age and sardonic and ungrudging admiration. 

"Yes, sir," he said, "Flem Snopes outsmarted me. And the 
man that can do that, I just wish I was Jiim, with this whole 
State of Mississippi to graze on." 

In the restaurant business Snopes appeared to prosper. 
That is, he soon eliminated his partner, and presently he was 
out of the restaurant himself, with a hired manager to run it, 
and we began to believe in the town that we knew what was 
the mainspring of his rise and luck. We believed that it was 
his wife; we accepted without demur the evil which such 
little lost towns like ours seem to foist even upon men who 
are of good thinking despite them. She helped in the restau- 
rant at first. We could see her there behind the wooden 
counter worn glass-smooth by elbows in their eating genera- 
tions: young, with the rich coloring of a calendar; a face 
smooth, unblemished by any thought or by anything else: 
an appeal immediate and profound and without calculation 

Centaur in Brass 1 5 1 

or shame, with (because of its unblemishment and not its 
size) something of that vast, serene, impervious beauty of a 
snowclad virgin mountain flank, listening and not smiling 
while Major Hoxey, the town's lone rich middle-aged bach- 
elor, graduate of Yale and soon to be mayor of the town, in- 
congruous there among the collarless shirts and the overalls 
and the grave, country-eating faces, sipped his coffee and 
talked to her. 

Not impregnable: impervious. That was why it did not 
need gossip when we watched Snopes's career mount beyond 
the restaurant and become complement with Major Hoxey 's 
in city affairs, until less than six months after Hoxey's inau- 
guration Snopes, who had probably never been close to any 
piece of machinery save a grindstone until he moved to town, 
was made superintendent of the municipal power plant. Mrs. 
Snopes was born one of those women the deeds and fortunes 
of whose husbands alone are the barometers of their good 
name; for to do her justice, there was no other handle for 
gossip save her husband's rise in Hoxey's administration. 

But there was still that intangible thing: partly something 
in her air, her face; partly what we had already heard about 
Flem Snopes's methods. Or perhaps what we knew or be- 
lieved about Snopes was all; perhaps what we thought to be 
her shadow was merely his shadow falling upon her. But 
anyway, when we saw Snopes and Hoxey together we would 
think of them and of adultery in the same instant, and we 
would think of the two of them walking and talking in ami- 
cable cuckoldry. Perhaps, as I said, this was the fault of the 
town. Certainly it was the fault of the town that the idea of 
their being on amicable terms outraged us more than the idea 
of the adultery itself. It seemed foreign, decadent, perverted: 
we could have accepted, if not condoned, the adultery had 
they only been natural and logical and enemies. 

But they were not. Yet neither could they have been called 

152 The Village 

friends. Snopes had no friends; there was no man nor woman 
among us, not even Hoxey or Mrs. Snopes, who we believed 
could say, "I know his thought" least of all, those among 
whom we saw him now and then, sitting about the stove in 
the rear of a certain smelly, third-rate grocery, listening and 
not talking, for an hour or so two or three nights a week. 
And so we believed that, whatever his wife was, she was not 
fooling him. It was another woman who did that: a Negro 
woman, the new young wife of Tom-Tom, the day fireman 
in the power plant. 

Tom-Tom was black: a big bull of a man weighing two 
hundred pounds and sixty years old and looking about forty. 
He had been married about a year to his third wife, a young 
woman whom he kept with the strictness of a Turk in a 
cabin two miles from town and from the power plant where 
he spent twelve hours a day with shovel and bar. 

One afternoon he had just finished cleaning the fires and 
he was sitting in the coal-bunker, resting and smoking his 
pipe, when Snopes, his superintendent, employer and boss, 
came in. The fires were clean and the steam was up again, 
and the safety valve on the middle boiler was blowing off. 

Snopes entered: a potty man of no particular age, broad 
and squat, in a clean though collarless white shirt and a plaid 
cap. His face was round and smooth, either absolutely impen- 
etrable or absolutely empty. His eyes were the color of stag- 
nant water; his mouth was a tight, lipless seam. Chewing 
steadily, he looked up at the whistling safety valve. 

"How much does that whistle weigh?" he said after a time. 

"Must weight ten pound, anyway," Tom-Tom said. 

"Is it solid brass?" 

"If it ain't, I ain't never seed no brass what is solid," Tom- 
Tom said. 

Snopes had not once looked at Tom-Tom. He continued 
to look upward toward the thin, shrill, excruciating sound of 
the valve. Then he spat, and turned and left the boiler-room. 

Centaur in Brass 153 


HE BUILT HIS monument slowly. But then, it is always strange 
to what involved and complex methods a man will resort in 
order to steal something. It's as though there were some in- 
tangible and invisible social force that mitigates against him, 
confounding his own shrewdness with his own cunning, dis- 
torting in his judgment the very value of the object of his 
greed, which in all probability, had he but picked it up and 
carried it openly away, nobody would have remarked or 
cared. But then, that would not have suited Snopes, since he 
apparently had neither the high vision of a confidence man 
nor the unrecking courage of a brigand. 

His vision at first, his aim, was not even that high; it was 
no higher than that of a casual rramp who pauses in passing 
to steal three eggs from beneath a setting hen. Or perhaps he 
was merely not certain yet that there really was a market for 
brass. Because his next move was five months after Harker, 
the night engineer, came on duty one evening and found the 
three safety whistles gone and the vents stopped with one- 
inch steel screw plugs capable of a pressure of a thousand 

"And them three boiler heads you could poke a hole 
through with a soda straw!" Harker said. "And that damn 
black night fireman, Turl, that couldn't even read a clock 
face, still throwing coal into them! When I looked at the 
gauge on the first boiler, I never believed I would get to the 
last boiler in time to even reach the injector. 

"So when I finally got it into Turl's head that that 100 on 
that dial meant where Turl would not only lose his job, he 
would lose it so good they wouldn't even be able to find the 
job to give it to the next misbegotten that believed that live 
steam was something you blowed on a window pane in cold 
weather, I got settled down enough to ask him where them 
safety valves had gone to. 


" 'Mr. Snopes took urn off,' Turl says. 

"'What in the hell for?' 

" 'I don't know. I just telling you what Tom-Tom told me. 
He say Mr. Snopes say the shut-off float in the water tank 
ain't heavy enough. Say that tank start leaking some day, and 
so he going to fasten them three safety valves on the float 
and make it heavier.' 

" 'You mean ' I says. That's as far as I could get: 'You 
mean ' 

" 'That what Tom-Tom say. I don't know nothing about 

"But they were gone. Up to that night, me and Turl had 
been catching forty winks or so now and then when we got 
caught up and things was quiet. But you can bet we never 
slept none that night. Me and him spent that whole night, 
time about, on that coal pile, where we could watch them 
three gauges. And from midnight on, after the load went oflf , 
we never had enough steam in all three of them boilers put 
together to run a peanut parcher. And even when I was in 
bed, at home, I couldn't sleep. Time I shut my eyes I would 
begin to see a steam gauge about the size of a washtub, with 
a red needle big as a shovel moving up toward a hundred 
pounds, and I would wake myself up hollering and 

But even that wore away after a while, and then Turl and 
Harker were catching their forty winks or so again. Perhaps 
they decided that Snopes had stolen his three eggs and was 
done. Perhaps they decided that he had frightened himself 
with the ease with which he had got the eggs. Because it was 
five months before the next act took place. 

Then one afternoon, with his fires cleaned and steam up 
again, Tom-Tom, smoking his pipe on the coal pile, saw 
Snopes enter, carrying in his hand an object which Tom- 
Tom said later he thought was a mule shoe. He watched 

Centaur in Brass 155 

Snopes retire into a dim corner behind the boilers, where 
there had accumulated a miscellaneous pile of metal junk, all 
covered with dirt: fittings, valves, rods and bolts and such, 
and, kneeling there, begin to sort the pieces, touching them 
one by one with the mule shoe and from time to time remov- 
ing one piece and tossing it behind him, into the runway. 
Tom-Tom watched him try with the magnet every loose 
piece of metal in the boiler-room, sorting out the iron from 
the brass: then Snopes ordered Tom-Tom to gather up the 
segregated pieces of brass and bring them in to his office. 

Tom-Tom gathered the pieces into a box. Snopes was 
waiting in the office. He glanced once into the box, then he 
spat. "How do you and Turl get along?" he said. Turl, I had 
better repeat, was the night fireman; a Negro too, though he 
was saddle-colored where Tom-Tom was black, and in place 
of Tom-Tom's two hundred pounds Turl, even with his 
laden shovel, would hardly have tipped a hundred and fifty. 

"I tends to my business," Tom-Tom said. "What Turl 
does wid hisn ain't no trouble of mine." 

"That ain't what Turl thinks," Snopes said, chewing, 
watching Tom-Tom, who looked at Snopes as steadily in 
turn; looked down at him. "Turl wants me to give him your 
day shift. He says he's tired firing at night." 

"Let him fire here long as I is, and he can have it," Tom- 
Torn said. 

"Turl don't want to wait that long," Snopes said, chewing, 
watching Tom-Tom's face. Then he told Tom-Tom how 
Turl was planning to steal some iron from the plant and lay 
it at Tom-Tom's door and so get Tom-Tom fired. And 
Tom-Tom stood there, huge, hulking, with his hard round 
little head. "That's what he's up to," Snopes said. "So I want 
you to take this stuff out to your house and hide it where 
Turl can't find it. And as soon as I get enough evidence on 
Turl, I'm going to fire him." 

1 56 The Village 

Tom-Tom waited until Snopes had finished, blinking his 
eyes slowly. Then he said immediately: "I knows a better 
way than that/' 

"What way?" Snopes said. Tom-Tom didn't answer. He 
stood, big, humorless, a little surly; quiet; more than a little 
implacable though heatless. "No, no," Snopes said. "That 
won't do. You have any trouble with Turl, and I'll fire you 
both. You do like I say, unless you are tired of your job and 
want Turl to have it. Are you tired of it?" 

"Ain't no man complained about my pressure yet," Tom- 
Tom said sullenly. 

"Then you do like I say. Yovi take that stuff out home with 
you tonight. Don't let nobody see you; not even your wife. 
And if you don't want to do it, just say so. I reckon I can get 
somebody that will do it." 

And that's what Tom-Tom did. And he kept his own 
counsel too, even when afterward, as discarded fittings and 
such accumulated again, he would watch Snopes test them 
one by one with the magnet and sort him out another batch 
to take out home and hide. Because he had been firing those 
boilers for forty years, ever since he was a man. At that time 
there was but one boiler, and he had got twelve dollars a 
month for firing it, but now there were three, and he got 
sixty dollars a month; and now he was sixty, and he owned 
his little cabin and a little piece of corn, and a mule and a 
wagon in which he rode into town to church twice each Sun- 
day, with his new young wife beside him and a gold watch 
and chain. 

And Marker didn't know then, either, even though he 
would watch the junked metal accumulate in the corner and 
then disappear over night until it came to be his nightly joke 
to enter with his busy, bustling air and say to Turl: "Well, 
Turl, I notice that little engine is still running. There's a right 
smart of brass in them bushings and wrist pins, but I reckon 

Centaur in Brass 157 

it's moving too fast to hold that magnet against it." Then 
more soberly; quite soberly, in fact, without humor or irony 
at all, since there was some of Suratt in Harker too: "That 
durn fellow! I reckon he'd sell the boilers too, if he knowed 
of any way you and Tom-Tom could keep steam up without 

And Turl didn't answer. Because by that time Turl had 
his own private temptations and worries, the same as Tom- 
Tom, of which Harker was also unaware. 

In the meantime, the first of the year came and the city 
was audited. 

"They come down here," Harker said, "two of them, in 
glasses. They went over the books and they poked around 
everywhere, counting everything in sight and writing it 
down. Then they went back to the office and they was still 
there at six o'clock when I come on. It seems that there was 
something wrong; it seems like there was some old brass parts 
wrote down in the books, only the brass seemed to be miss- 
ing or something. It was on the books all right, and the new 
valves and things it had been replaced with was there. But be 
durn if they could find a one of them old pieces except one 
busted bib that had got mislaid under the work-bench some- 
way or other. It was right strange. So I went back with them 
and held the light while they looked again in all the corners, 
getting a right smart of soot and grease on them, but that 
brass just naturally seemed to be plumb missing. So they 
went away. 

"And the next morning early they come back. They had 
the city clerk with them this time and they beat Mr. Snopes 
down here and so they had to wait till he come in in his check 
cap and his chew, chewing and looking at them while they 
told him. They was right sorry; they hemmed and hawed a 
right smart, being sorry. But it wasn't nothing else they could 
do except to come back on him, long as he was the superin- 

158 The Village 

tendent; and did he want me and Turl and Tom-Tom 
arrested right now, or would tomorrow do? And him stand- 
ing there, chewing, with them eyes like two gobs of cup 
grease on a hunk of raw dough, and them still telling him 
how sorry they was. 

" 'How much does it come to?' he says. 

" 'Three hundred and four dollars and fifty-two cents, Mr. 

" 'Is that the full amount?' 

" 'We checked our figures twice, Mr. Snopes.' 

" 'All right,' he says. And he reaches down and hauls out 
the money and pays them the three hundred and four dollars 
and fifty-two cents in cash, and asks for a receipt." 


THEN THE NEXT Summer came, with Harker still laughing at 
and enjoying what he saw, and seeing so little, thinking how 
they were all fooling one another while he looked on, when 
it was him who was being fooled. For in that Summer the 
thing ripened, came to a head. Or maybe Snopes just decided 
to cut his first hay crop; clean the meadow for reseeding. Be- 
cause he could never have believed that on the day when he 
sent for Turl, he had set the capital on his monument and 
had started to tear the scaffolding down. 

It was in the evening; he returned to the plant after supper 
and sent for Turl; again two of them, white man and Negro, 
faced one another in the office. 

"What's this about you and Tom-Tom?" Snopes said. 

" 'Bout me and which?" Turl said. "If Tom-Tom depend- 
ing on me for his trouble, he sho' done quit being a fireman 
and turned waiter. It take two folks to have trouble, and 
Tom-Tom ain't but one, I don't care how big he is." 

Centaur in Brass 159 

Snopes watched Turl. "Tom-Tom thinks you want to fire 
the day shift." 

Turl looked down. He looked briefly at Snopes's face; at 
the still eyes, the slow unceasing jaw, and down again. "I 
can handle as much coal as Tom-Tom," he said. 

Snopes watched him: the smooth, brown, aside-looking 
face. "Tom-Tom knows that, too. He knows he's getting 
old. But he knows there ain't nobody else can crowd him but 
you." Then, watching Turl's face, Snopes told him how for 
two years Tom-Tom had been stealing brass from the plant, 
in order to lay it on Turl and get him fired; how only that 
day Tom-Tom had told him that Turl was the thief. 

Turl looked up. "That's a lie," he said. "Can't no nigger 
accuse me of stealing when I ain't, I don't care how big he 

"Sho'," Snopes said. "So the thing to do is to get that brass 

"If Tom-Tom got it, I reckon Mr. Buck Conner the man 
to get it back," Turl said. Buck Conner was the city marshal. 

"Then you'll go to jail, sure enough. Tom-Tom'll say he 
didn't know it was there. You'll be the only one that knew 
it was there. So what you reckon Buck Conner'll think? 
You'll be the one that knew where it was hid at, and Buck 
Conner'll know that even a fool has got more sense than to 
steal something and hide it in his corn-crib. The only thing 
you can do is to get that brass back. Go out there in the 
daytime, while Tom-Tom is at work, and get it and bring it 
to me and I'll put it away somewhere to use as evidence on 
Tom-Tom. Unless maybe you don't want that day shift. Just 
say so, if you don't. I reckon I can find somebody else that 

And Turl agreed to do that. He hadn't fired any boilers 
for forty years. He hadn't done anything at all for as long as 
forty years, since he was just past thirty. But even if he v/ere 

160 The Village 

a hundred, no man could ever accuse him of having done 
anything that would aggregate forty years net. "Unless 
Turl's night prowling might add up that much," Harker said. 
"If Turl ever gets married, he wan't need no front door 
a-tall; he wouldn't know what it was for. If he couldn't come 
tom-catting in through the back window, he wouldn't know 
what he come after. Would you, Turl?" 

So from here on it is simple enough, since a man's mistakes, 
like his successes, usually are simple. Particularly the success. 
Perhaps that's why it is so often missed: it was just over- 

"His mistake was in picking out Turl to pull his chestnuts," 
Harker said. "But even Turl wasn't as bad as the second mis- 
take he made at the same time without knowing it. And that 
was, when he forgot about that high yellow wife of Tom- 
Tom's. When I found out how he had picked out Turl, out 
of all the niggers in Jefferson, that's prowled at least once 
(or tried to) every gal within ten miles of town, to go out to 
Tom-Tom's house knowing all the time how Tom-Tom 
would be down here wrastling coal until seven o'clock and 
then have two miles to walk home, and expect Turl to spend 
his time out there hunting for anything that ain't hid in Tom- 
Tom's bed, and when I would think about Tom-Tom down 
here, wrastling them boilers with this same amical cuckoldry 
like the fellow said about Mr. Snopes and Colonel Hoxey > 
stealing brass so he can keep Turl from getting his job away 
from him, and Turl out yonder tending to Tom-Tom's home 
business at the same time, sometimes I think I will die. 

"It was bound to not last. The question was, which would 
happen first: if Tom-Tom would catch Turl, or if Mr. 
Snopes would catch Turl, or if I would bust a blood vessel 
laughing some night. Well, it was Turl. He seemed to be 
having too much trouble locating that brass; he had been 
hunting it for three weeks alreadv, coming in a little late 

Centaur in Brass 161 

almost every night now, with Tom-Tom having to wait 
until Turl come before he could start home. Maybe that was 
it. Or maybe Mr. Snopes was out there himself one day, hid 
in the bushes too, waiting for it to get along toward dark (it 
was already April then); him on one side of Tom-Tom's 
house and Turl creeping up through the corn patch on the 
other. Anyway, he come back down here one night and he 
was waiting when Turl come in about a half hour late, as 
usual, and Tom-Tom all ready to go home soon as Turl got 
here. Mr. Snopes sent for Turl and asked him if he had found 

" 'Find it when?' Turl says. 

" 'While you was out there hunting for it about dusk to- 
night,' Mr. Snopes says. And there's Turl, wondering just 
how much Mr. Snopes knows, and if he can risk saying how 
he has been at home in bed since six-thirty this morning, or 
maybe up to Mottstown on business. 'Maybe you are still 
looking for it in the wrong place,' Mr. Snopes says, watching 
Turl, and Turl not looking at Mr. Snopes except maybe now 
and then. 'If Tom-Tom had hid that iron in his bed, you 
ought to done found it three weeks ago,' Mr. Snopes says. 
'So suppose you look in that corn-crib where I told you to 

"So Turl went out to look one more time. But he couldn't 
seem to find it in the corn-crib neither. Leastways, that's 
what he told Mr. Snopes when Mr. Snopes finally run him 
down back here about nine o'clock one night. Turl was on a 
kind of a spot, you might say. He would have to wait until 
along toward dark to go up to the house, and already Tom- 
Tom had been grumbling some about how Turl was getting 
later and later about coming to work every night. And once 
he found that brass, he would have to begin getting back to 
the plant at seven o'clock, and the days getting longer all 
the time. 

1 62 The Village 

"So Turl goes back to give one more go-round for that 
brass evidence. But still he can't find it. He must have looked 
under every shuck and thread in Tom-Tom's bed tick, but 
without no more success than them two audits had. He just 
couldn't seem to find that evidence nohow. So then Mr. 
Snopes says he will give Turl one more chance, and if he 
don't find that evidence this time, Mr. Snopes is going to tell 
Tom-Tom how there is a strange tom-cat on his back fence. 
And whenever a nigger husband in Jefferson hears that, he 
finds out where Turl is at before he even sharpens his razor: 
ain't that so, Turl? 

"So the next evening Turl goes out to look again. To do 
or die this time. He comes creeping up out of the woods 
about sundown, the best time of day for brass hunting, spe- 
cially as there is a moon that night. So here he comes, creep- 
ing up through the corn patch to the back porch, where the 
cot is, and pretty soon he can make out somebody in a white 
nightgown laying on the cot. But Turl don't rise up and walk 
even then; that ain't Turl's way. Turl plays by the rules. He 
creeps up it's dust-dark by then, and the moon beginning 
to shine a little all careful and quiet, and tom-cats up on to 
the back porch and stoops over the cot and puts his hand on 
nekkid meat and says, 'Honeybunch, papa's done arrived.' " 


IN THE VERY QUIET hearing of it I seemed to partake for the 
instant of Turl's horrid surprise. Because it was Tom-Tom 
on the cot; Tom-Tom, whom Turl believed to be at the mo- 
ment two miles away, waiting for Turl to come and take 
over from him at the power plant. 

The night before, on his return home Tom-Tom had 
brought with him a last year's watermelon which the local 
butcher had kept all Winter in cold storage and which he 

Centaur in Brass 163 

had given to Tom-Tom, being himself afraid to eat it, and a 
pint of whiskey. Tom-Tom and his wife consumed them and 
went to bed, where an hour later she waked Tom-Tom by 
her screaming. She was violently ill, and she was afraid that 
she was dying. She was too frightened to let Tom-Tom go 
for help, and while he dosed her as he could, she confessed to 
him about herself and Turl. As soon as she told it she became 
easier and went off to sleep, either before she had time to 
realize the enormity of what she had done, or while she was 
still too occupied in being alive to care. 

But Tom-Tom wasn't. The next morning, after he con- 
vinced himself that she was all right, he reminded her of it. 
She wept some, and tried to retract; she ran the gamut of 
tears to anger, through denial and cajolery back to tears 
again. But she had Tom-Tom's face to look at all the while, 
and so after a time she hushed and she just lay there, watching 
him as he went methodically about cooking breakfast, her 
own and his, saying no word, apparently oblivious of even 
her presence. Then he fed her, made her eat, with the same 
detachment, implacable and without heat. She was waiting 
for him to leave for work; she was doubtless then and had 
been all the while inventing and discarding practical expe- 
dients; so busy that it was mid-morning before she realized 
that he had no intention of going to town, though she did not 
know that he had arranged to get word to the plant by seven 
that morning that he would take the day off. 

So she lay there in the bed, quite quiet, her eyes a little 
wide, still as an animal, while he cooked their dinner and fed 
her again with that clumsy and implacable care. And just 
before sundown he locked her in the bedroom, she still saying 
no word, not asking him what he was about, just watching 
with her quiet, still eyes the door until it closed and the key 
clicked. Then Tom-Tom put on one of her nightgowns and 
with a naked butcher knife beside him, he lay down on the 

1 64 The Village 

cot on the back porch. And there he was, without having 
moved for almost an hour, when Turl crept on to the porch 
and touched him. 

In the purely reflex action of Turl's turning to flee, Tom- 
Tom rose, clutching the knife, and sprang at Turl. He leaped 
astride of TurPs neck and shoulders; his weight was the impe- 
tus which sent Turl off the porch, already running when 
his feet touched earth, carrying with him on the retina of his 
fear a single dreadful glint of moonlight on the blade of the 
lifted knife, as he crossed the back lot and, with Tom-Tom 
on his back, entered the trees the two of them a strange 
and furious beast with two heads and a single pair of legs like 
an inverted centaur speeding phantomlike just ahead of the 
boardlike streaming of Tom-Tom's shirt-tail and just beneath 
the silver glint of the lifted knife, through the moony April 

"Tom-Tom big buck man," Turl said. "Make three of me. 
But I sho' toted him. And whenever I would see the moon 
glint that butcher knife, I could a picked up two more like 
him without even stopping." He said that at first he just ran; 
it was only when he found himself among the trees that it 
occurred to him that his only hope was to rake Tom-Tom off 
against a tree trunk. "But he helt on so tight with that one 
arm that whenever I busted him into a tree, I had to bust into 
the tree too. And then we'd bounce off and I'd catch that 
moonglint in that nekkid knife, and I could a picked up two 
more Tom-Toms. 

" 'Bout that time was when Tom-Tom started squalling. 
He was holding on with both hands then, so I knowed that I 
had done outrun that butcher knife anyhow. But I was good 
started then; my feets never paid Tom-Tom no more mind 
when he started squalling to stop and let him off than they 
did me. Then Tom-Tom grabbed my head with both hands 
and begun to haul it around like I was a runaway bareback 

Centaur in Brass 165 

mule, and then I seed the ditch. It was about forty foot deep 
and it looked a solid mile across, but it was too late then. My 
feets never even slowed up. They run far as from here to that 
door yonder out into nekkid air before us even begun to fall. 
And they was still clawing that moonlight when me and 
Tom-Tom hit the bottom." 

The first thing I wanted to know was, what Tom-Tom 
used in lieu of the butcher knife which he had dropped. He 
didn't use anything. He and Turl just sat there in the ditch 
and talked. Because there is a sanctuary beyond despair for 
any beast which has dared all, which even its mortal enemy 
respects. Or maybe it was just nigger nature. Anyway, it was 
perfectly plain to both of them as they sat there, perhaps 
panting a little while they talked, that Tom-Tom's home had 
been outraged, not by Turl, but by Flem Snopes; that Turl's 
life and limbs had been endangered, not by Tom-Tom, but 
by Flem Snopes. 

That was so plain to them that they sat there quietly in the 
ditch, getting their wind back, talking a little without heat 
like two acquaintances meeting in the street; so plain that 
they made their concerted plan without recourse to definite 
words on the subject. They merely compared notes; perhaps 
they laughed a little at themselves. Then they climbed out of 
the ditch and returned to Tom-Tom's cabin, where Tom- 
Tom unlocked his wife, and he and Turl sat before the hearth 
while the woman prepared a meal for them, which they ate 
as quietly but without loss of time: the two grave, scratched 
faces leaned to the same lamp, above the same dishes, while 
in the background the woman watched them, shadowy and 
covert and unspeaking. 

Tom-Tom took her to the barn with them to help load the 
brass into the wagon, where Turl spoke for the first time 
since they climbed together out of the ditch in Harker's 

1 66 The Village 

"amical" cuckoldry: "Great God, man, how long did it take 
you to tote all this stuff out here?" 

"Not long," Tom-Tom said. "Been working at it 'bout 
two years." 

It required four trips in the wagon; it was daybreak when 
the last load was disposed of, and the sun was rising when 
Turl entered the power plant, eleven hours late. 

"Where in hell you been?" Harker said. 

Turl glanced up at the three gauges, his scratched face 
wearing an expression of monkeylike gravity. "Been helping 
a friend of mine." 

"Helping what friend of yours?" 

"Boy named Turl," Turl said, squinting at the gauges. 


"AND THAT WAS all he said," Harker said. "And me looking at 
that scratched face of hisn, and at the mate of it that Tom- 
Tom brought in at six o'clock. But Turl didn't tell me then. 
And I ain't the only one he never told nothing that morning. 
Because Mr. Snopes got there before six o'clock, before Turl 
had got away. He sent for Turl and asked him if he had 
found that brass and Turl told him no. 

" 'Why didn't you find it?' Mr. Snopes said. 

"Turl didn't look away, this time. 'Because it ain't no brass 
there. That's the main reason.' 

" 'How do you know there ain't?' Mr. Snopes says. 

"And Turl looked him straight in them eyes. 'Because 
Tom-Tom say it ain't,' Turl says. 

"Maybe he ought to knew then. But a man will go to any 
length to fool himself; he will tell himself stuff and believe it 
that he would be downright mad with a fellow he had done 
trimmed for believing it. So now he sends for Tom-Tom. 

" 'I ain't got no brass,' Tom-Tom says. 

Centaur in Brass 167 

"Where is it, then?' 

" 'It's where you said you wanted it.' 

" 'Where I said I wanted it when?' 

" 'When you took them whistle valves off the boilers,' 
Tom-Tom says. 

"That's what whipped him. He didn't dare to fire neither 
one of them, you see. And so he'd have to see one of them 
there all day long every day, and know that the other one 
was there all night long every night; he would have to know 
that during every twenty-four hours that passed, one or the 
other of them was there, getting paid paid, mind you, by 
the hour for living half their lives right there under that 
tank with them four loads of brass in it that now belonged to 
him by right of purchase and which he couldn't claim now 
because now he had done waited too late. 

"It sure was too late. But next New Year it got later. Come 
New Year's and the town got audited again; again them two 
spectacled fellows come down here and checked the books 
and went away and come back with not only the city clerk, 
but with Buck Conner too, with a warrant for Turl and 
Tom-Tom. And there they were, hemming and hawing, 
being sorry again, pushing one another in front to talk. It 
seems how they had made a mistake two years ago, and 
instead of three-hundred-and-four-fifty-two of this here 
evaporating brass, there was five-hundred-and-twenty-five 
dollars worth, leaving a net of over two-hundred-and-twenty 
dollars. And there was Buck Conner with the warrant, all 
ready to arrest Turl and Tom-Tom when he give the word, 
and it so happening that Turl and Tom-Tom was both in the 
boiler-room at that moment, changing shifts. 

"So Snopes paid them. Dug down and hauled out the 
money and paid them the two-hundred-and-twenty and got 
his receipt. And about two hours later I happened to pass 
through the office. At first I didn't see nobody^ because the 

1 68 The Village 

light was off. So I thought maybe the bulb was burned out, 
seeing as that light burned all the time. But it wasn't burned 
out; it was just turned out. Only before I turned it on I saw 
him, setting there. So I didn't turn the light on. I just went 
on out and left him setting there, setting right still." 


IN THOSE DAYS Snopes lived in a new little bungalow on the 
edge of town, and, when shortly after that New Year he 
resigned from the power plant, as the weather warmed into 
Spring they would see him quite often in his tiny grassless 
and treeless side yard. It was a locality of such other hopeless 
little houses inhabited half by Negroes, and washed clay gul- 
lies and ditches filled with scrapped automobiles and tin cans, 
and the prospect was not pleasing. Yet he spent quite a lot 
of his time there, sitting on the steps, not doing anything. 
And so they wondered what he could be looking at there, 
since there was nothing to see above the massed trees which 
shaded the town itself except the low smudge of the power 
plant, and the water tank. And it too was condemned now, 
for the water had suddenly gone bad two years ago and the 
town now had a new reservoir underground. But the tank 
was a stout one and the water was still good to wash the 
streets with, and so the town let it stand, refusing at one time 
a quite liberal though anonymous offer to purchase and re- 
move it. 

So they wondered what Snopes was looking at. They 
didn't know that he was contemplating his monument: that 
shaft taller than anything in sight and filled with transient and 
symbolical liquid that was not even fit to drink, but which, 
for the very reason of its impermanence, was more enduring 
through its fluidity and blind renewal than the brass which 
poisoned it, than columns of basalt or of lead. 

Dry September 


THROUGH THE BLOODY September twilight, aftermath of 
sixty-two rainless days, it had gone like a fire in dry grass 
the rumor, the story, whatever it was. Something about Miss 
Minnie Cooper and a Negro. Attacked, insulted, frightened: 
none of them, gathered in the barber shop on that Saturday 
evening where the ceiling fan stirred, without freshening it, 
the vitiated air, sending back upon them, in recurrent surges 
of stale pomade and lotion, their own stale breath and odors, 
knew exactly what had happened. 

"Except it wasn't Will Mayes," a barber said. He was a 
man of middle age; a thin, sand-colored man with a mild 
face, who was shaving a client. "I know Will Mayes. He's 
a good nigger. And I know Miss Minnie Cooper, too." 

"What do you know about her?" a second barber said. 

"Who is she?" the client said. "A young girl?" 

"No," the barber said. ' r She's about forty, I reckon. She 
aint married. That's why I dont believe " 

"Believe, hell!" a hulking youth in a sweat-stained silk 
shirt said. "Wont you take a white woman's word before a 

"I dont believe Will Mayes did it," the barber said. "I 
know Will Mayes." 


170 The Village 

"Maybe you know who did it, then. Maybe you already 
got him out of town, you damn niggerlover." 

"I dont believe anybody did anything. I dont believe any- 
thing happened. I leave it to you fellows if them ladies that 
get old without getting married dont have notions that a 

man cant " 

"Then you are a hell of a white man," the client said. He 
moved under the cloth. The youth had sprung to his feet. 

"You dont?" he said. "Do you accuse a white woman of 

The barber held the razor poised above the half-risen 
client. He did not look around. 

"It's this durn weather," another said. "It's enough to 
make a man do anything. Even to her." 

Nobody laughed. The barber said in his mild, stubborn 
tone: "I aint accusing nobody of nothing. I just know and 
you fellows know how a woman that never " 

"You damn niggerlover!" the youth said. 

"Shut up, Butch," another said. "We'll get the facts in 
plenty of time to act." 

"Who is? Who's getting them?" the youth said. "Facts, 
hell! I" 

"You're a fine white man," the client said. "Aint you?" 
In his frothy beard he looked like a desert rat in the moving 
pictures. "You tell them, Jack," he said to the youth. "If 
there aint any white men in this town, you can count on 
me, even if I aint only a drummer and a stranger." 

"That's right, boys," the barber said. "Find out the truth 
first. I know Will Mayes." 

"Well, by God!" the youth shouted. "To think that a 
white man in this town " 

"Shut up, Butch," the second speaker said. "We got 
plenty of time." 

The client sat up. He looked at the speaker. "Do you 

Dry September 171 

claim that anything excuses a nigger attacking a white 
woman? Do you mean to tell me you are a white man and 
you'll stand for it? You better go back North where you 
came from. The South dont want your kind here." 

"North what?" the second said. "I was born and raised in 
this town." 

"Well, by God!" the youth said. He looked about with 
a strained, baffled gaze, as if he was trying to remember what 
it was he wanted to say or to do. He drew his sleeve across 
his sweating face. "Damn if I'm going to let a white 
woman " 

"You tell them, Jack," the drummer said. "By God, if 

The screen door crashed open. A man stood in the floor, 
his feet apart and his heavy-set body poised easily. His white 
shirt was open at the throat; he wore a felt hat. His hot, 
bold glance swept the group. His name was McLendon. He 
had commanded troops at the front in France and had been 
decorated for valor. 

"Well," he said, "are you going to sit there and let a black 
son rape a white woman on the streets of Jefferson?" 

Butch sprang up again. The silk of his shirt clung flat to 
his heavy shoulders. At each armpit was a dark halfmoon, 
"That's what I been telling them! That's what I " 

"Did it really happen?" a third said. "This aint the first 
man scare she ever had, like Hawkshaw says. Wasn't there 
something about a man on the kitchen roof, watching her 
undress, about a year ago?" 

"What?" the client said. "What's that?" The barber had 
been slowly forcing him back into the chair; he arrested 
himself reclining, his head lifted, the barber still pressing him 

McLendon whirled on the third speaker. "Happen? What 

1 72 The Village 

the hell difference does it make? Are you going to let the 
black sons get away with it until one really does it?'* 

"That's what I'm telling them!" Butch shouted. He cursed, 
long and steady, pointless. 

"Here, here," a fourth said. "Not so loud. Dont talk so 

"Sure," McLendon said; "no talking necessary at all. I've 
done my talking. Who's with me?" He poised on the balls 
of his feet, roving his gaze. 

The barber held the drummer's face down, the razor 
poised. "Find out the facts first, boys. I know Willy Mayes. 
It wasn't him. Let's get the sheriff and do this thing right." 

McLendon whirled upon him his furious, rigid face. The 
barber did not look away. They looked like men of different 
races. The other barbers had ceased also above their prone 
clients. "You mean to tell me," McLendon said, "that you'd 
take a nigger's word before a white woman's? Why, you 
damn niggerloving " 

The third speaker rose and grasped McLendon's arm; he 
too had been a soldier. "Now, now. Let's figure this thing 
out. Who knows anything about what really happened?" 

"Figure out hell!" McLendon jerked his arm free. "All 
that're with me get up from there. The ones that aint " 
He roved his gaze, dragging his sleeve across his face. 

Three men rose. The drummer in the chair sat up. "Here," 
he said, jerking at the cloth about his neck; "get this rag off 
me. I'm with him. I dont live here, but by God, if our 
mothers and wives and sisters " He smeared the cloth over 
his face and flung it to the floor. McLendon stood in the 
floor and cursed the others. Another rose and moved toward 
him. The remainder sat uncomfortable, not looking at one 
another, then one by one they rose and joined him. 

The barber picked the cloth from the floor. He began to 

Dry September 173 

fold it neatly. "Boys, dont do that. Will Mayes never done 
it. I know." 

"Come on," McLendon said. He whirled. From his hip 
pocket protruded the butt of a heavy automatic pistol. They 
went out. The screen door crashed behind them reverberant 
in the dead air. 

The barber wiped the razor carefully and swiftly, and 
put it away, and ran to the rear, and took his hat from the 
wall. "I'll be back as soon as I can," he said to the other 
barbers. "I cant let " He went out, running. The two other 
barbers followed him to the door and caught it on the re- 
bound, leaning out and looking up the street after him. The 
air was flat and dead. It had a metallic taste at the base of the 

"What can he do?" the first said. The second one was 
saying "Jees Christ, Jees Christ" under his breath. "I'd just 
as lief be Will Mayes as Hawk, if he gets McLendon riled." 

"Jees Christ, Jees Christ," the second whispered. 

"You reckon he really done it to her?" the first said. 


SHE WAS thirty-eight or thirty-nine. She lived in a small 
frame house with her invalid mother and a thin, sallow, un- 
flagging aunt, where each morning between ten and eleven 
she would appear on the porch in a lace-trimmed boudoir 
cap, to sit swinging in the porch swing until noon. After 
dinner she lay down for a while, until the afternoon began 
to cool. Then, in one of the three or four new voile dresses 
which she had each summer, she would go downtown to 
spend the afternoon in the stores with the other ladies, where 
they would handle the goods and haggle over the prices in 
cold, immediate voices, without any intention of buying. 
She was of comfortable people not the best in Jefferson, 

174 The Village 

but good people enough and she was still on the slender 
side of ordinary looking, with a bright, faintly haggard man- 
ner and dress. When she was young she had had a slender, 
nervous body and a sort of hard vivacity which had enabled 
her for a time to ride upon the crest of the town's social life 
as exemplified by the high school party and church social 
period of her contemporaries while still children enough to 
be unclassconscious. 

She was the last to realize that she was losing ground; that 
those among whom she had been a little brighter and louder 
flame than any other were beginning to learn the pleasure of 
snobbery male and retaliation female. That was when 
her face began to wear that bright, haggard look. She still 
carried it to parties on shadowy porticoes and summer lawns, 
like a mask or a flag, with that bafflement of furious repudia- 
tion of truth in her eyes. One evening at a party she heard 
a boy and two girls, all schoolmates, talking. She never ac- 
cepted another invitation. 

She watched the girls with whom she had grown up as 
they married and got homes and children, but no man ever 
called on her steadily until the children of the other girls 
had been calling her "aunty" for several years, the while 
their mothers told them in bright voices about how popular 
Aunt Minnie had been as a girl. Then the town began to see 
her driving on Sunday afternoons with the cashier in the 
bank. He was a widower of about forty a high-colored 
man, smelling always faintly of the barber shop or of whisky. 
He owned the first automobile in town, a red runabout; 
Minnie had the first motoring bonnet and veil the town ever 
saw. Then the town began to say: "Poor Minnie." "But she 
is old enough to take care of herself," others said. That was 
when she began to ask her old schoolmates that their chil- 
dren call her "cousin" instead of "aunty." 

It was twelve vears now since she had been relegated into 

Dry September 175 

adultery by public opinion, and eight years since the cashier 
had gone to a Memphis bank, returning for one day each 
Christmas, which he spent at an annual bachelors' party at 
a hunting club on the river. From behind their curtains the 
neighbors would see the party pass, and during the over-the- 
way Christmas day visiting they would tell her about him, 
about how well he looked, and how they heard that he was 
prospering in the city, watching with bright, secret eyes her 
haggard, bright face. Usually by that hour there would be 
the scent of whisky on her breath. It was supplied her by a 
youth, a clerk at the soda fountain: "Sure; I buy it for the 
old gal. I reckon she's entitled to a little fun." 

Her mother kept to her room altogether now; the gaunt 
aunt ran the house. Against that background Minnie's bright 
dresses, her idle and empty days, had a quality of furious 
unreality. She went out in the evenings only with women 
now, neighbors, to the moving pictures. Each afternoon she 
dressed in one of the new dresses and went downtown alone, 
where her young "cousins" were already strolling in the late 
afternoons with their delicate, silken heads and thin, awk- 
ward arms and conscious hips, clinging to one another or 
shrieking and giggling with paired boys in the soda fountain 
when she passed and went on along the serried store fronts, 
in the doors of which the sitting and lounging men did not 
even follow her with their eyes any more. 


THE BARBER WENT SWIFTLY up the street where the sparse 
lights, insect-swirled, glared in rigid and violent suspension 
in the lifeless air. The day had died in a pall of dust; above 
the darkened square, shrouded by the spent dust, the sky 
was as clear as the inside of a brass bell. Below the east was 
a rumor of the twice-waxed moon. 

176 The Village 

When he overtook them McLendon and three others were 
getting into a car parked in an alley. McLendon stooped his 
thick head, peering out beneath the top, "Changed your 
mind, did you?" he said. "Damn good thing; by God, to- 
morrow when this town hears about how you talked to- 

"Now, now," the other ex-soldier said. "Hawkshaw's all 
right. Come on, Hawk; jump in." 

"Will Mayes never done it, boys," the barber said. "If 
anybody done it. Why, you all know well as I do there aint 
any town where they got better niggers than us. And you 
know how a lady will kind of think things about men when 
there aint any reason to, and Miss Minnie anyway " 

"Sure, sure," the soldier said. "We're just going to talk 
to him a little; that's all." 

"Talk hell!" Butch said. "When we're through with 

"Shut up, for God's sake!" the soldier said. "Do you want 
everybody in town " 

"Tell them, by God!" McLendon said. "Tell every one 
of the sons that'll let a white woman " 

"Let's go; let's go: here's the other car." The second car 
slid squealing out of a cloud of dust at the alley mouth. 
McLendon started his car and took the lead. Dust lay like 
fog in the street. The street lights hung nimbused as in 
water. They drove on out of town. 

A rutted lane turned at right angles. Dust hung above it 
too, and above all the land. The dark bulk of the ice plant, 
where the Negro Mayes was night watchman, rose against 
the sky. "Better stop here, hadn't we?" the soldier said. 
McLendon did not reply. He hurled the car up and slammed 
to a stop, the headlights glaring on the blank wall. 

"Listen here, boys," the barber said; "if he's here, dont 
that prove he never done it? Dont it? If it was him, he 

Dry September 177 

would run. Dont you see he would?" The second car came 
up and stopped. McLendon got down; Butch sprang down 
beside him. "Listen, boys," the barber said. 

"Cut the lights off!" McLendon said. The breathless dark 
rushed down. There was no sound in it save their lungs as 
they sought air in the parched dust in which for two months 
they had lived; then the diminishing crunch of McLendon's 
and Dutch's feet, and a moment later McLendon's voice: 

"Will! . . . Will!" 

Below the east the wan hemorrhage of the moon increased. 
It heaved above the ridge, silvering the air, the dust, so that 
they seemed to breathe, live, in a bowl of molten lead. There 
was no sound of nightbird nor insect, no sound save their 
breathing and a faint ticking of contracting metal about the 
cars. Where their bodies touched one another they seemed 
to sweat dryly, for no more moisture came. "Christ!" a 
voice said; "let's get out of here." 

But they didn't move until vague noises began to grow 
out of the darkness ahead; then they got out and waited 
tensely in the breathless dark. There was another sound: a 
blow, a hissing expulsion of breath and McLendon cursing 
in undertone. They stood a moment longer, then they ran 
forward. They ran in a stumbling clump, as though they 
were fleeing something. "Kill him, kill the son," a voice 
whispered. McLendon flung them back. 

"Not here," he said. "Get him into the car." "Kill him, 
kill the black son!" the voice murmured. They dragged the 
Negro to the car. The barber had waited beside the car. He 
could feel himself sweating and he knew he was going to be 
sick at the stomach. 

"What is it, captains?" the Negro said. "I aint done noth- 
ing. Tore God, Mr John." Someone produced handcuffs. 
They worked busily about the Negro as though he were a 
post, quiet, intent, getting in one another's way. He sub- 

178 The Village 

mitted to the handcuffs, looking swiftly and constantly from 
dim face to dim face. "Who's here, captains?" he said, lean- 
ing to peer into the faces until they could feel his breath 
and smell his sweaty reek. He spoke a name or two. "What 
you all say I done, Mr John?" 

McLendon jerked the car door open. "Get in!" he said. 

The Negro did not move. "What you all going to do with 
me, Mr John? I aint done nothing. White folks, captains, I 
aint done nothing: I swear 'fore God." He called another 

"Get in!" McLendon said. He struck the Negro. The 
others expelled their breath in a dry hissing and struck him 
with random blows and he whirled and cursed them, and 
swept his manacled hands across their faces and slashed the 
barber upon the mouth, and the barber struck him also. 
"Get him in there," McLendon said. They pushed at him. 
He ceased struggling and got in and sat quietly as the others 
took their places. He sat between the barber and the soldier, 
drawing his limbs in so as not to touch them, his eyes going 
swiftly and constantly from face to face. Butch clung to the 
running board. The car moved on. The barber nursed his 
mouth with his handkerchief. 

"What's the matter, Hawk?" the soldier said. 

"Nothing," the barber said. They regained the highroad 
and turned away from town. The second car dropped back 
out of the dust. They went on, gaining speed; the final 
fringe of houses dropped behind. 

"Goddamn, he stinks!" the soldier said. 

"We'll fix that," the drummer in front beside McLendon 
said. On the running board Butch cursed into the hot rush 
of air. The barber leaned suddenly forward and touched 
McLendon's arm. 

"Let me out, John," he said. 

"Jump out, niggerlover," McLendon said without turning 

Dry September 179 

his head. He drove swiftly. Behind them the sourceless lights 
of the second car glared in the dust. Presently McLendon 
turned into a narrow road. It was rutted with disuse. It led 
back to an abandoned brick kiln a series of reddish mounds 
and weed- and vine-choked vats without bottom. It had been 
used for pasture once, until one day the owner missed one 
of his mules. Although he prodded carefully in the vats with 
a long pole, he could not even find the bottom of them. 

"John," the barber said. 

"Jump out, then," McLendon said, hurling the car along 
the ruts. Beside the barber the Negro spoke: 

"Mr Henry." 

The barber sat forward. The narrow tunnel of the road 
rushed up and past. Their motion was like an extinct furnace 
blast: cooler, but utterly dead. The car bounded from rut 
to rut. 

"Mr Henry," the Negro said. 

The barber began to tug furiously at the door. "Look out, 
there!" the soldier said, but the barber had already kicked 
the door open and swung onto the running board. The 
soldier leaned across the Negro and grasped at him, but he 
had already jumped. The car went on without checking 

The impetus hurled him crashing through dust-sheathed 
weeds, into the ditch. Dust puffed about him, and in a thin, 
vicious crackling of sapless stems he lay choking and retch- 
ing until the second car passed and died away. Then he rose 
and limped on until he reached the highroad and turned 
toward town, brushing at his clothes with his hands. The 
moon was higher, riding high and clear of the dust at last, 
and after a while the town began to glare beneath the dust. 
He went on, limping. Presently he heard cars and the glow 
of them grew in the dust behind him and he left the road 
and crouched again in the weeds until they passed. Me- 

i8o The Village 

Lendon's car came last now. There were four people in it 
and Butch was not on the running board. 

They went on; the dust swallowed them; the glare and 
the sound died away. The dust of them hung for a while, 
but soon the eternal dust absorbed it again. The barber 
climbed back onto the road and limped on toward town. 


As SHE DRESSED for supper on that Saturday evening, her 
own flesh felt like fever. Her hands trembled among the 
hooks and eyes, and her eyes had a feverish look, and her 
hair swirled crisp and crackling under the comb. While she 
was still dressing the friends called for her and sat while she 
donned her sheerest underthings and stockings and a new 
voile dress. "Do you feel strong enough to go out?" they 
said, their eyes bright too, with a dark glitter. "When you 
have had time to get over the shock, you must tell us what 
happened. What he said and did; everything." 

In the leafed darkness, as they walked toward the square, 
she began to breathe deeply, something like a swimmer pre- 
paring to dive, until she ceased trembling, the four of them 
walking slowly because of the terrible heat and out of 
solicitude for her. But as they neared the square she began 
to tremble again, walking with her head up, her hands 
clenched at her sides, their voices about her murmurous, also 
with that feverish, glittering quality of their eyes. 

They entered the square, she in the center of the group, 
fragile in her fresh dress. She was trembling worse. She 
walked slower and slower, as children eat ice cream, her 
head up and her eyes bright in the haggard banner of her 
face, passing the hotel and the coatless drummers in chairs 
along the curb looking around at her: "That's the one: see? 
The one in pink in the middle." "Is that her? What did they 

Dry September 181 

do with the nigger? Did they?" "Sure. He's all right." 
"All right, is he?" "Sure. He went on a little trip." Then the 
drug store, where even the young men lounging in the door- 
way tipped their hats and followed with their eyes the 
motion of her hips and legs when she passed. 

They went on, passing the lifted hats of the gentlemen, 
the suddenly ceased voices, deferent, protective. "Do you 
see?" the friends said. Their voices sounded like long, hover- 
ing sighs of hissing exultation. "There's not a Negro on the 
square. Not one." 

They reached the picture show. It was like a miniature 
fairyland with its lighted lobby and colored lithographs of 
life caught in its terrible and beautiful mutations. Her lips 
began to tingle. In the dark, when the picture began, it 
would be all right; she could hold back the laughing so it 
would not waste away so fast and so soon. So she hurried on 
before the turning faces, the undertones of low astonish- 
ment, and they took their accustomed places where she could 
see the aisle against the silver glare and the young men and 
girls coming in two and two against it. 

The lights flicked away; the screen glowed silver, and 
soon life began to unfold, beautiful and passionate and sad, 
while still the young men and girls entered, scented and 
sibilant in the half dark, their paired backs in- silhouette deli- 
cate and sleek, their slim, quick bodies awkward, divinely 
young, while beyond them the silver dream accumulated, 
inevitably on and on. She began to laugh. In trying to sup- 
press it, it made more noise than ever; heads began to turn. 
Still laughing, her friends raised her and led her out, and 
she stood at the curb, laughing on a high, sustained note, 
until the taxi came up and they helped her in. 

They removed the pink voile and the sheer underthings 
and the stockings, and put her to bed, and cracked ice for 
her temples, and sent for the doctor. He was hard to locate, 

1 82 The Village 

so they ministered to her with hushed ejaculations, renew- 
ing the ice and fanning her. While the ice was fresh and 
cold she stopped laughing and lay still for a time, moaning 
only a little. But soon the laughing welled again and her 
voice rose screaming. 

"Shhhhhhhhhhh! Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" they said, fresh- 
ening the icepack, smoothing her hair, examining it for gray; 
"poor girl!" Then to one another: "Do you suppose any- 
thing really happened?" their eyes darkly aglitter, secret and 
passionate. "Shhhhhhhhhh! Poor girl! Poor Minnie!" 


IT WAS MIDNIGHT when McLendon drove up to his neat new 
house. It was trim and fresh as a birdcage and almost as 
small, with its clean, green-and-white paint. He locked the 
car and mounted the porch and entered. His wife rose from 
a chair beside the reading lamp. McLendon stopped in the 
floor and stared at her until she looked down. 

"Look at that clock," he said, lifting his arm, pointing. 
She stood before him, her face lowered, a magazine in her 
hands. Her face was pale, strained, and weary-looking. 
"Haven't I told you about sitting up like this, waiting to 
see when I come in?" 

"John," she said. She laid the magazine down. Poised on 
the balls of his feet, he glared at her with his hot eyes, his 
sweating face. 

"Didn't I tell you?" He went toward her. She looked up 
then. He caught her shoulder. She stood passive, looking at 

"Don't, John. I couldn't sleep . . . The heat; something. 
Please, John. You're hurting me." 

"Didn't I tell you?" He released her and half struck, half 
flung her across the chair, and she lay there and watched 
him quietly as he left the room. 

Dry September 183 

He went on through the house, ripping off his shirt, and 
on the dark, screened porch at the rear he stood and mopped 
his head and shoulders with the shirt and flung it away. He 
took the pistol from his hip and laid it on the table beside 
the bed, and sat on the bed and removed his shoes, and rose 
and slipped his trousers off. He was sweating again already, 
and he stooped and hunted furiously for the shirt. At last 
he found it and wiped his body again, and, with his body 
pressed against the dusty screen, he stood panting. There 
was no movement, no sound, not even an insect. The dark 
world seemed to lie stricken beneath the cold moon and the 
lidless stars. 

Death Drag 

THE AIRPLANE appeared over town with almost the abrupt- 
ness of an apparition. It was travelling fast; almost before we 
knew it was there it was already at the top of a loop; still 
over the square, in violation of both city and government 
ordinance. It was not a good loop either, performed viciously 
and slovenly and at top speed, as though the pilot were 
either a very nervous man or in a hurry, or (and this queerly: 
there is in our town an ex-army aviator. He was coming out 
of the post office when the airplane appeared going south; he 
watched the hurried and ungraceful loop and he made the 
comment) as though the pilot were trying to make the min- 
imum of some specified manoeuvre in order to save gasoline. 
The airplane came over the loop with one wing down, as 
though about to make an Immelmann turn. Then it did a half 
roll, the loop three-quarters complete, and without any break 
in the whine of the full-throttled engine and still at top speed 
and with that apparition-like suddenness, it disappeared east- 
ward toward our airport. When the first small boys reached 
the field, the airplane was on the ground, drawn up into a 
fence corner at the end of the field. It was motionless and 
empty. There was no one in sight at all. Resting there, empty 
and dead, patched and shabby and painted awkwardly with a 
single thin coat of dead black, it gave again that illusion of 
ghostliness, as though it might have flown there and made 
rhat loop and landed by itself. 

1 86 The Village 

Our field is still in an embryonic state. Our town is built 
upon hills, and the field, once a cotton field, is composed of 
forty acres of ridge and gully, upon which, by means of 
grading and filling, we managed to build an X-shaped run- 
way into the prevailing winds. The runways are long enough 
in themselves, but the field, like our town, is controlled by 
men who were of middle age when younger men first began 
to fly, and so the clearance is not always good. On one side 
is a grove of trees which the owner will not permit to be 
felled; on another is the barnyard of a farm: sheds and 
houses, a long barn with a roof of rotting shingles, a big hay- 
cock. The airplane had come to rest in the fence corner near 
the barn. The small boys and a Negro or two and a white 
man, descended from a halted wagon in the road, were stand- 
ing quietly about it when two men in helmets and lifted 
goggles emerged suddenly around the corner of the barn. 
One was tall, in a dirty coverall. The other was quite 
short, in breeches and puttees and a soiled, brightly patterned 
overcoat which looked as if he had got wet in it and it had 
shrunk on him. He walked with a decided limp. 

They had stopped at the corner of the barn. Without ap- 
pearing to actually turn their heads, they seemed to take in at 
one glance the entire scene, quickly. The tall man spoke. 
"What town is this?" 

One of the small boys told him the name of the town. 

"Who lives here?" the tall man said. 

"Who lives here?" the boy repeated. 

"Who runs this field? Is it a private field?" 

"Oh. It belongs to the town. They run it." 

"Do they all live here? The ones that run it?" 

The white man, the Negroes, the small boys, all watched 
the tall man. 

"What I mean, is there anybody in this town that flies, 
that owns a ship? Any strangers here that fly?" 

Death Drag 187 

"Yes," the boy said. "There's a man lives here that flew in 
the war, the English army." 

"Captain Warren was in the Royal Flying Corps," a sec- 
ond boy said. 

"That's what I said," the first boy said. 

"You said the English army," the second boy said. 

The second man, the short one with the limp, spoke. He 
spoke to the tall man, quietly, in a dead voice, in the diction 
of Weber and Fields in vaudeville, making his iv^s into v's 
and his ttfs into d's. "What does that mean?" he said. 

"It's all right," the tall man said. He moved forward. "I 
think I know him." The short man followed, limping, ter- 
rific, crablike. The tall man had a gaunt face beneath a two- 
days' stubble. His eyeballs looked dirty, too, with a strained, 
glaring expression. He wore a dirty helmet of cheap, thin 
cloth, though it was January. His goggles were worn, but 
even we could tell that they were good ones. But then every- 
body quit looking at him to look at the short man; later, when 
we older people saw him, we said among ourselves that he 
had the most tragic face we had ever seen; an expression of 
outraged and convinced and indomitable despair, like that of 
a man carrying through choice a bomb which, at a certain 
hour each day, may or may not explode. He had a nose 
which would have been out of proportion to a man six feet 
tall. As shaped by his close helmet, the entire upper half of his 
head down to the end of his nose would have fitted a six-foot 
body. But below that, below a lateral line bisecting his head 
from the end of his nose to the back of his skull, his jaw, the 
rest of his face, was not two inches deep. His jaw was a long, 
flat line clapping-to beneath his nose like the jaw of a shark, so 
that the tip of his nose and the tip of his jaw almost touched. 
His goggles were merely flat pieces of window-glass held in 
felt frames. His helmet was leather. Down the back of it, 
from the top to the hem, was a long savage tear, held together 

1 88 The Village 

top and bottom by strips of adhesive tape almost black with 
dirt and grease. 

From around the corner of the barn there now appeared a 
third man, again with that abrupt immobility, as though he 
had materialized there out of thin air; though when they saw 
him he was already moving toward the group. He wore an 
overcoat above a neat civilian suit; he wore a cap. He was a 
little taller than the limping man, and broad, heavily built. 
He was handsome in a dull, quiet way; from his face, a man 
of infrequent speech. When he came up the spectators saw 
that he, like the limping man, was also a Jew. That is, they 
knew at once that two of the strangers were of a different 
race from themselves, without being able to say what the 
difference was. The boy who had first spoken probably re- 
vealed by his next speech what they thought the difference 
was. He, as well as the other boys, was watching the man 
who limped. 

"Were you in the war?" the boy said. "In the air war?" 

The limping man did not answer. Both he and the tall man 
were watching the gate. The spectators looked also and saw 
a car enter the gate and come down the edge of the field 1 
toward them. Three men got out of the car and approached. 
Again the limping man spoke quietly to the tall man: "Is that 

"No," the tall man said, without looking at the other. He 
watched the newcomers, looking from face to face. He spoke 
to the oldest of the three. "Morning," he said. "You run this 

"No," the newcomer said. "You want the secretary of the 
Fair Association. He's in town." 

"Any charge to use it?" 

"I don't know. I reckon they'll be glad to have you use it." 

"Go on and pay them," the limping man said. 

The three newcomers looked at the airplane with that 
blank, knowing, respectful air of groundlings. It reared on its 

Death Drag 189 

muddy wheels, the propeller motionless, rigid, with a quality 
immobile and poised and dynamic. The nose was big with 
engine, the wings taut, the fuselage streaked with oil behind 
the rusting exhaust pipes. "Going to do some business here?" 
the oldest one said. 

"Put you on a show," the tall man said. 

"What kind of show?" 

"Anything you want. Wing-walking; death-drag." 

"What's that? Death-drag?" 

"Drop a man onto the top of a car and drag him off again. 
Bigger the crowd, the more you'll get." 

"You will get your money's worth," the limping man said. 

The boys still watched him. "Were you in the war?" the 
first boy said. 

The third stranger had not spoken up to this time. He now 
said: "Let's get on to town." 

"Right," the tall man said. He said generally, in his flat, 
dead voice, the same voice which the three strangers all 
seemed to use, as though it were their common language: 
"Where can we get a taxi? Got one in town?" 

"We'll take you to town," the men who had come up in 
the car said. 

"We'll pay," the limping man said. 

"Glad to do it," the driver of the car said. "I won't charge 
you anything. You want to go now?" 

"Sure," the tall man said. The three strangers got into the 
back seat, the other three in front. Three of the boys fol- 
lowed them to the car. 

"Lemme hang on to town, Mr. Black?" one of the boys 

"Hang on," the driver said. The boys got onto the running 
boards. The car returned to town. The three in front could 
hear the three strangers talking in the back. They talked 
quietly, in low, dead voices, somehow quiet and urgent, dis- 
cussing something among themselves, the tall man and the 

I 9 o The Village 

handsome one doing most of the talking. The three in front 
heard only one speech from the limping man: "I won't take 
less . . ." 

"Sure," the tall man said. He leaned forward and raised his 
voice a little: "Where '11 1 find this Jones, this secretary?" 

The driver told him. 

"Is the newspaper or the printing shop near there? I want 
some handbills." 

"I'll show you," the driver said. "I'll help you get fixed 

"Fine," the tall man said. "Come out this afternoon and 
Til give you a ride, if I have time." 

The car stopped at the newspaper office. "You can get 
your handbills here," the driver said. 

"Good," the tall man said. "Is Jones's office on this street?" 

"I'll take you there, too," the driver said. 

"You see about the editor," the tall man said. "I can find 
Jones, I guess." They got out of the car. "I'll come back 
here," the tall man said. He went on down the street, swiftly, 
in his dirty coverall and helmet. Two other men had joined 
the group before the newspaper office. They all entered, the 
limping man leading, followed by the three boys. 

"I want some handbills," the limping man said. "Like this 
one." He took from his pocket a folded sheet of pink paper. 
He opened it; the editor, the boys, the five men, leaned to 
see it. The lettering was black and bold: 






Death Drag 191 

"I want them in one hour," the limping man said. 

"What you want in this blank space?" the editor said. 

"What you got in this town?" 

"What we got?" 

"What auspices? American Legion? Rotary Club? Cham- 
ber of Commerce?" 

"We got all of them." 

"I'll tell you which one in a minute, then," the limping 
man said. "When my partner gets back." 

"You have to have a guarantee before you put on the 
show, do you?" the editor said. 

"Why, sure. Do you think I should put on a daredevil 
without auspices? Do you think I should for a nickel maybe 
jump off the airplane?" 

"Who's going to jump?" one of the later comers said; he 
was a taxi-driver. 

The limping man looked at him. "Don't you worry about 
that," he said. "Your business is just to pay the money. We 
will do all the jumping you want, if you pay enough." 

"I just asked which one of you all was the jumper." 

"Do I ask you whether you pay me in silver or in green- 
backs?" the limping man said. "Do I ask you?" 

"No," the taxi-driver said. 

"About these bills," the editor said. "You said you wanted 
them in an hour." 

"Can't you begin on them, and leave that part out until 
my partner comes back?" 

"Suppose he don't come before they are finished?" 

"Well, that won't be my fault, will it?" 

"All right," the editor said. "Just so you pay for them." 

"You mean, I should pay without a auspices on the hand- 

"I ain't in this business for fun," the editor said. 

"We'll wait," the limping man said. 

192 The Village 

They waited. 

"Were you a flyer in the war, Mister?" the boy said. 

The limping man turned upon the boy his long, misshapen, 
tragic face. "The war? Why should I fly in a war?" 

"I thought maybe because of your leg. Captain Warren 
limps, and he flew in the war. I reckon you just do it for 

"For fun? What for fun? Fly? Gruss Gott. I hate it, I wish 
the man what invented them was here; I would put him into 
that machine yonder and I would print on his back, Do not 
do it, one thousand times." 

"Why do you do it, then?" the man who had entered with 
the taxi-driver said. 

"Because of that Republican Coolidge. I was in business, 
and that Coolidge ruined business; ruined it. That's why. 
For fun? Gruss Gott." 

They looked at the limping man. "I suppose you have a 
license?" the second late-comer said. 

The limping man looked at him. "A license?" 

"Don't you have to have a license to fly?" 

"Oh; a license. For the airplane to fly; sure, I understand. 
Sure. We got one. You want to see it?" 

"You're supposed to show it to anybody that wants to see 
it, aren't you?" 

"Why, sure. You want to see it?" 

"Where is it?" 

"Where should it be? It's nailed to the airplane, where the 
government put it. Did you thought maybe it was nailed to 
me? Did you thought maybe I had a engine on me and maybe 
wings? It's on the airplane. Call a taxi and go to the airplane 
and look at it." 

"I run a taxi," the driver said. 

"Well, run it. Take this gentleman out to the field where 
he can look at the license on the airplane." 

Death Drag 193 

"It'll be a quarter," the driver said. But the limping man 
was not looking at the driver. He was leaning against the 
counter. They watched him take a stick of gum from his 
pocket and peel it. They watched him put the gum into his 
mouth. "I said it'll be a quarter, Mister," the driver said. 

"Was you talking to me?" the limping man said. 

"I thought you wanted a taxi out to the airport." 

"Me? What for? What do I want to go out to the airport 
for? I just come from there. I ain't the one that wants to see 
that license. I have already seen it. I was there when the 
government nailed it onto the airplane." 


CAPTAIN WARREN, the ex-army flyer, was coming out of the 
store, where he met the tall man in the dirty coverall. Cap- 
tain Warren told about it in the barber shop that night, when 
the airplane was gone. 

"I hadn't seen him in fourteen years, not since I left Eng- 
land for the front in '17. 'So it was you that rolled out of 
that loop with two passengers and a twenty model Hisso 
smokepot?' I said. 

" 'Who else saw me?' he said. So he told me about it, stand- 
ing there, looking over his shoulder every now and then. He 
was sick; a man stopped behind him to let a couple of ladies 
pass, and Jock whirled like he might have shot the man if 
he'd had a gun, and while we were in the cafe some one 
slammed a door at the back and I thought he would come 
out of his monkey suit. It's a little nervous trouble I've got,' 
he told me. Tm all right.' I had tried to get him to come out 
home with me for dinner, but he wouldn't. He said that he 
had to kind of jump himself and eat before he knew it, sort 
of. We had started down the street and we were passing the 
restaurant when he said: I'm going to eat,' and he turned 

194 The Village 

and ducked in like a rabbit and sat down with his back to 
the wall and told Vernon to bring him the quickest thing he 
had. He drank three glasses of water and then Vernon 
brought him a milk bottle full and he drank most of that 
before the dinner came up from the kitchen. When he took off 
his helmet, I saw that his hair was pretty near white, and he 
is younger than I am. Or he was, up there when we were in 
Canada training. Then he told me what the name of his 
nervous trouble was. It was named Ginsfarb. The little one; 
the one that jumped off the ladder." 

"What was the trouble?" we asked. "What were they 
afraid of?" 

"They were afraid of inspectors," Warren said. "They 
had no licenses at all." 

"There was one on the airplane." 

"Yes. But it did not belong to that airplane. That one had 
been grounded by an inspector when Ginsfarb bought it. 
The license was for another airplane that had been wrecked, 
and some one had helped Ginsfarb compound another felony 
by selling the license to him. Jock had lost his license about 
two years ago when he crashed a big plane full of Fourth- 
of-July holidayers. Two of the engines quit, and he had to 
land. The airplane smashed up some and broke a gas line, 
but even then they would have been all right if a passenger 
hadn't got scared (it was about dusk) and struck a match. 
Jock was not so much to blame, but the passengers all burned 
to death, and the government is strict. So he couldn't get a 
license, and he couldn't make Ginsfarb even pay to take out 
a parachute rigger's license. So they had no license at all; if 
they were ever caught, they'd all go to the penitentiary." 

"No wonder his hair was white," some one said. 

"That wasn't what turned it white," Warren said. "I'll 
tell you about that. So they'd go to little towns like this one, 
fast, find out if there was anybody that might catch them, 

Death Drag 195 

and if there wasn't, they'd put on the show and then clear 
out and go to another town, staying away from the cities. 
They'd come in and get handbills printed while Jock and 
the other one would try to get underwritten by some local 
organization. They wouldn't let Ginsfarb do this part, 
because he'd stick out for his price too long and they'd be 
afraid to risk it. So the other two would do this, get what 
they could, and if they could not get what Ginsfarb told 
them to, they'd take what they could and then try to keep 
Ginsfarb fooled until it was too late. Well, this time Ginsfarb 
kicked up. I guess they had done it too much on him. 

"So I met Jock on the street. He looked bad; I offered 
him a drink, but he said he couldn't even smoke any more. 
All he could do was drink water; he said he usually drank 
about a gallon during the night, getting up for it. 

" 'You look like you might have to jump yourself to 
sleep, too,' I said. 

" 'No, I sleep fine. The trouble is, the nights aren't long 
enough. I'd like to live at the North Pole from September 
to April, and at the South Pole from April to September. 
That would just suit me.' 

" 'You aren't going to last long enough to get there,' I 

" 'I guess so. It's a good engine. I see to that.' 

" 'I mean, you'll be in jail.' 

"Then he said: 'Do you think so? Do you guess I could?' 

"We went on to the cafe. He told me about the racket, 
and showed me one of those Demon Duncan handbills. 
'Demon Duncan?' I said. 

" 'Why not? Who would pay to see a man named Gins- 
farb jump from a ship?' 

" 'I'd pay to see that before I'd pay to see a man named 
Duncan do it,' I said. 

"He hadn't thought of that. Then he began to drink water, 

196 The Village 

and he told me that Ginsfarb had wanted a hundred dollars 
for the stunt, but that he and the other fellow only got sixty. 

" 'What are you going to do about it? ' I said. 

" 'Try to keep him fooled and get this thing over and get 
to hell away from here,' he said. 

" 'Which one is Ginsfarb?' I said. 'The little one that looks 
like a shark?' 

"Then he began to drink water. He emptied my glass too 
at one shot and tapped it on the table. Vernon brought him 
another glass. 'You must be thirsty,' Vernon said. 

" 'Have you got a pitcher of it?' Jock said. 

" 'I could fill you a milk bottle.' 

" 'Let's have it,' Jock said. 'And give me another glass 
while I'm waiting.' Then he told me about Ginsfarb, why 
his hair had turned gray. 

" 'How long have you been doing this?' I said. 

" 'Ever since the 2 6th of August.' 

" 'This is just January,' I said. 

"'What about it?' 

" 'The 2 6th of August is not six months past.' " 

He looked at me. Vernon brought the bottle of water. 
Jock poured a glass and drank it. He began to shake, sitting 
there, shaking and sweating, trying to fill the glass again. 
Then he told me about it, talking fast, filling the glass and 

"Jake (the other one's name is Jake something; the good- 
looking one) drives the car, the rented car. Ginsfarb swaps 
onto the car from the ladder. Jock said he would have to fly 
the ship into position over a Ford or a Chevrolet running on 
three cylinders, trying to keep Ginsfarb from jumping from 
twenty or thirty feet away in order to save gasoline in the 
ship and in the rented car. Ginsfarb goes out on the bottom 
wing with his ladder, fastens the ladder onto a strut, hooks 
himself into the other end of the ladder, and drops off; every- 
body on the ground thinks that he has done what they all 

Death Drag 197 

came to see: fallen off and killed himself. That's what he 
calls his death-drop. Then he swaps from the ladder onto the 
top of the car, and the ship comes back and he catches the 
ladder and is dragged off again. That's his death-drag. 

"Well, up till the day when Jock's hair began to turn 
white, Ginsfarb, as a matter of economy, would do it all at 
once; he would get into position above the car and drop off 
on his ladder and then make contact with the car, and some- 
times Jock said the ship would not be in the air three min- 
utes. Well, on this day the rented car was a bum or some- 
thing; anyway, Jock had to circle the field four or five times 
while the car was getting into position, and Ginsfarb, seeing 
his money being blown out the exhaust pipes, finally refused 
to wait for Jock's signal and dropped off anyway. It was all 
right, only the distance between the ship and the car was not 
as long as the rope ladder. So Ginsfarb hit on the car, and 
Jock had just enough soup to zoom and drag Ginsfarb, still 
on the ladder, over a high-power electric line, and he held 
the ship in that climb for twenty minutes while Ginsfarb 
climbed back up the ladder with his leg broken. He held the 
ship in a climb with his knees, with the throttle wide open 
and the engine revving about eleven hundred, while he 
reached back and opened that cupboard behind the cockpit 
and dragged out a suitcase and propped the stick so he could 
get out on the wing and drag Ginsfarb back into the ship. 
He got Ginsfarb in the ship and on the ground again and 
Ginsfarb says: 'How far did we go?' and Jock told him they 
had flown with full throttle for thirty minutes and Ginsfarb 
says: 'Will you ruin me yet?' " 


THE REST of this is composite. It is what we (groundlings, 
dwellers in and backbone of a small town interchangeable 
with and duplicate of ten thousand little dead clottings of 

198 The Village 

human life about the land) saw, refined and clarified by the 
expert, the man who had himself seen his own lonely and 
scudding shadow upon the face of the puny and remote 

The three strangers arrived at the field, in the rented car. 
When they got out of the car, they were arguing in tense, 
dead voices, the pilot and the handsome man against the man 
who limped. Captain Warren said they were arguing about 
the money. 

"I want to see it," Ginsfarb said. They stood close; the 
handsome man took something from his pocket. 

"There. There it is. See?" he said. 

"Let me count it myself," Ginsfarb said. 

"Come on, come on," the pilot hissed, in his dead, tense 
voice. "We tell you we got the money! Do you want an 
inspector to walk in and take the money and the ship too and 
put us in jail? Look at all these people waiting." 

"You fooled me before," Ginsfarb said. 

"All right," the pilot said. "Give it to him. Give him his 
ship too. And he can pay for the car when he gets back to 
town. We can get a ride in; there's a train out of here in 
fifteen minutes." 

"You fooled me once before," Ginsfarb said. 

"But we're not fooling you now. Come on. Look at all 
these people." 

They moved toward the airplane, Ginsfarb limping ter- 
rifically, his back stubborn, his face tragic, outraged, cold. 
There was a good crowd: country people in overalls; the 
men a general dark clump against which the bright dresses 
of the women, the young girls, showed. The small boys and 
several men were already surrounding the airplane. We 
watched the limping man begin to take objects from the body 
of it: a parachute, a rope ladder. The handsome man went 
to the propeller. The pilot got into the back seat. 

Death Drag 199 

"Off!" he said, sudden and sharp. "Stand back, folks. 
We're going to wring the old bird's neck." 

They tried three times to crank the engine. 

"I got a mule, Mister," a countryman said. "How much'll 
you pay for a tow?" 

The three strangers did not laugh. The limping man was 
busy attaching the rope ladder to one wing. 

"You can't tell me," a countrywoman said. "Even he ain't 
that big a fool." 

The engine started then. It seemed to lift bodily from the 
ground a small boy who stood behind it and blow him aside 
like a leaf. We watched it turn and trundle down the field. 

"You can't tell me that thing's flying," the countrywoman 
said. "I reckon the Lord give me eyes. I can see it ain't flying. 
You folks have been fooled." 

"Wait," another voice said. "He's got to turn into the 

"Ain't there as much wind right there or right here as 
there is down yonder?" the woman said. But it did fly. It 
turned back toward us; the noise became deafening. When 
it came broadside on to us, it did not seem to be going f A, 
yet we could see daylight beneath the wheels and the earth. 
But it was not going fast; it appeared rather to hang gently 
just above the earth until we saw that, beyond and beneath 
it, trees and earth in panorama were fleeing backward at 
dizzy speed, and then it tilted and shot skyward with a noise 
like a circular saw going into a white oak log. "There ain't 
nobody in it!" the countrywoman said. "You can't tell me!" 

The third man, the handsome one in the cap, had got into 
the rented car. We all knew it: a battered thing which the 
owner would rent to any one who would make a deposit of 
ten dollars. He drove to the end of the field, faced down the 
runwav, and stopped. We looked back at the airplane. It 

2oo The Village 

was high, coming back toward us; some one cried suddenly, 
his voice puny and thin: "There! Out on the wing! See?'' 

"It ain't!" the countrywoman said. "I don't believe it!" 

"You saw them get in it," some one said. 

"I don't believe it!" the woman said. 

Then we sighed; we said, "Aaahhhhhhh"; beneath the 
wing of the airplane there was a falling dot. We knew it was 
a man. Some way we knew that that lonely, puny, falling 
shape was that of a living man like ourselves. It fell. It 
seemed to fall for years, yet when it checked suddenly up 
without visible rope or cord, it was less far from the airplane 
than was the end of the delicate pen-slash of the profiled 

"It ain't a man!" the woman shrieked. 

"You know better," the man said. "You saw him get in it." 

"I don't care!" the woman cried. "It ain't a man! You 
take me right home this minute!" 

The rest is hard to tell. Not because we saw so little; we 
saw everything that happened, but because we had so little 
in experience to postulate it with. We saw that battered 
rented car moving down the field, going faster, jouncing in 
the broken January mud, then the sound of the airplane 
blotted it, reduced it to immobility; we saw the dangling 
ladder and the shark-faced man swinging on it beneath the 
death-colored airplane. The end of the ladder raked right 
across the top of the car, from end to end, with the limping 
man on the ladder and the capped head of the handsome 
man leaning out of the car. And the end of the field was 
coming nearer, and the airplane was travelling faster than the 
car, passing it. And nothing happened. "Listen!" some one 
cried. "They are talking to one another!" 

Captain Warren told us what they were talking about, the 
two Jews yelling back and forth at one another: the shark- 

Death Drag 201 

faced man on the dangling ladder that looked like a cobweb, 
the other one in the car; the fence, the end of the field, com- 
ing closer. 

"Come on!" the man in the car shouted. 

"What did they pay?" 


"If they didn't pay that hundred, I won't do it." 

Then the airplane zoomed, roaring, the dangling figure on 
the gossamer ladder swinging beneath it. It circled the field 
twice while the man got the car into position again. Again 
the car started down the field; again the airplane came down 
with its wild; circular-saw drone which died into a splutter 
as the ladder and the clinging man swung up to the car from 
behind; again we heard the two puny voices shrieking at one 
another with a quality at once ludicrous and horrible: the 
one coming out of the very air itself, shrieking about some- 
thing sweated out of the earth and without value anywhere 

"How much did you say?" 


"What? How much did they pay?" 

"Nothing! Jump!" 

"Nothing?" the man on the ladder wailed in a fading, out- 
raged shriek. "Nothing?" Again the airplane was dragging 
the ladder irrevocably past the car, approaching the end of 
the field, the fences, the long barn with its rotting roof. Sud- 
denly we saw Captain Warren beside us; he was using words 
we had never heard him use. 

"He's got the stick between his knees," Captain Warren 
said. "Exalted suzerain of mankind; saccharine and sacred 
symbol of eternal rest." We had forgot about the pilot, the 
man still in the airplane. We saw the airplane, tilted upward, 
the pilot standing upright in the back seat, leaning over the 
side and shaking both hands at the man on the ladder. We 

202 The Village 

could hear him yelling now as again the man on the ladder 
was dragged over the car and past it, shrieking: 

"I won't do it! I won't do it!" He was still shrieking when 
the airplane zoomed; we saw him, a diminishing and shriek- 
ing spot against the sky above the long roof of the barn: "I 
won't do it! I won't do it!" Before, when the speck left the 
airplane, falling, to be snubbed up by the ladder, we knew 
that it was a living man; again, when the speck left the lad- 
der, falling, we knew that it was a living man, and we knew 
that there was no ladder to snub him up now. We saw hin? 
falling against the cold, empty January sky until the sil- 
houette of the barn absorbed him; even from here, his atti- 
tude froglike, outraged, implacable. From somewhere in the 
crowd a woman screamed, though the sound was blotted out 
by the sound of the airplane. It reared skyward with its wild, 
tearing noise, the empty ladder swept backward beneath it. 
The sound of the engine was like a groan, a groan of relief 
and despair. 


CAPTAIN WARREN told us in the barber shop on that Satur- 
day night. 

"Did he really jump off, onto that barn?" we asked him. 

"Yes. He jumped. He wasn't thinking about being killed, 
or even hurt. That's why he wasn't hurt. He was too mad, 
too in a hurry to receive justice. He couldn't wait to fly back 
down. Providence knew that he was too busy and that he 
deserved justice, so Providence put that barn there with the 
rotting roof. He wasn't even thinking about hitting the barn; 
if he'd tried to, let go of his belief in a cosmic balance to 
bother about landing, he would have missed the barn and 
killed himselfe" 

It didr\ hurt him at all, save for a long scratch on his face 

Death Drag 205 

that bled a lot, and his overcoat was torn completely down 
the back, as though the tear down the back of the helmet had 
run on down the overcoat. He came out of the barn running 
before we got to it. He hobbled right among us, with his 
bloody face, his arms waving, his coat dangling from either 

"Where is that secretary?" he said. 

"What secretary?" 

"That American Legion secretary." He went on, limping 
fast, toward where a crowd stood about three women who 
had fainted. "You said you would pay a hundred dollars to 
see me swap to that car. We pay rent on the car and all, and 
now you would " 

"You got sixty dollars," some one said. 

The man looked at him. "Sixty? I said one hundred. Then 
you would let me believe it was one hundred and it was 
just sixty; you would see me risk my life for sixty dollars. 
. . ." The airplane was down; none of us were aware of it 
until the pilot sprang suddenly upon the man who limped. 
He jerked the man around and knocked him down before 
we could grasp the pilot. We held the pilot, struggling, 
crying, the tears streaking his dirty, unshaven face. Captain 
Warren was suddenly there, holding the pilot. 

"Stop it! "he said. "Stop it!" 

The pilot ceased. He stared at Captain Warren, then he 
slumped and sat on the ground in his thin, dirty garment, 
with his unshaven face, dirty, gaunt, with his sick eyes, 
crying. "Go away," Captain Warren said. "Let him alone 
for a minute." 

We went away, back to the other man, the one who 
limped. They had lifted him and he drew the two halves 
of his overcoat forward and looked at them. Then he said: 
"I want some chewing gum." 

Some one gave him a stick. Another offered him a ciga- 

204 The Village 

rette. "Thanks," he said. "I don't burn up no money. I ain't 
got enough of it yet." He put the gum into his mouth. "You 
would take advantage of me. If you thought I would risk 
my life for sixty dollars, you fool yourself." 

"Give him the rest of it," some one said. "Here's my 

The limping man did not look around. "Make it up to 
a hundred, and I will swap to the car like on the handbill," 
he said. 

Somewhere a woman screamed behind him. She began 
to laugh and to cry at the same time. "Don't . . ." she said, 
laughing and crying at the same time. "Don't let . . ." until 
they led her away. Still the limping man had not moved. 
He wiped his face on his cuff and he was looking at his 
bloody sleeve when Captain Warren came up. 

"How much is he short?" \Varren said. They told Warren. 
He took out some money and gave it to the limping man. 

"You want I should swap to the car?" he said. 

"No," Warren said. "You get that crate out of here quick 
as you can." 

"Well, that's your business," the limping man said. "I got 
witnesses I offered to swap." He moved; we made way and 
watched him, in his severed and dangling overcoat, approach 
the airplane. It was on the runway, the engine running. The 
third man was already in the front seat. We watched the 
limping man crawl terrifically in beside him. They sat there, 
looking forward. 

The pilot began to get up. Warren was standing beside 
him. "Ground it," Warren said. "You are coming home 
with me." 

"I guess we'd better get on," the pilot said. He did not 
look at Warren. Then he put out his hand. "Well . . ." he 

Warren did not take his hand. "You come on home with 
me," he said. 

Death Drag 205 

"Who'd take care of that bastard?" 

"Who wants to?" 

"I'll get him right, some day. Where I can beat hell out 
of him." 

"Jock," Warren said. 

"No," the other said. 

"Have you got an overcoat?" 

"Sure I have." 

"You're a liar." Warren began to pull off his overcoat. 

"No," the other said; "I don't need it." He went on toward 
the machine. "See you some time," he said over his shoulder. 
We watched him get in, heard an airplane come to life, come 
alive. It passed us, already off the ground. The pilot jerked 
his hand once, stiffly; the two heads in the front seat did not 
turn nor move. Then it was gone, the sound was gone. 

Warren turned. "What about that car they rented?" he 

"He give me a quarter to take it back to town," a boy said. 

"Can you drive it?" 

"Yes, sir. I drove it out here. I showed him where to 

rent it." 

"The one that jumped?" 

"Yes, sir." The boy looked a little aside. "Only I'm a little 
scared to take it back. I don't reckon you could come with 

"Why, scared?" Warren said. 

"That fellow never paid nothing down on it, like Mr. 
Harris wanted. He told Mr. Harris he might not use it, but 
if he did use it in his show, he would pay Mr. Harris twenty 
dollars for it instead of ten like Mr. Harris wanted. He told 
me to take it back and tell Mr. Harris he never used the car, 
And I don't know if Mr. Harris will like it. He might gel 


BORDERING THE SHEER DROP of the precipice, the wooden 
railing looked like a child's toy. It followed the curving 
road in thread-like embrace, passing the car in a flimsy blur. 
Then it flicked behind and away like a taut ribbon cut with 

Then they passed the sign, the first sign, Mills City. 6 mi 
and Elly thought, with musing and irrevocable astonishment, 
'Now we are almost there. It is too late now'; looking at 
Paul beside her, his hands on the wheel, his face in profile 
as he watched the fleeing road. She said, * Well. What can I 
do to make you marry me, Paul?" thinking 'There was a 
man plowing in that field, watching us when we came out 
of those woods with Paul carrying the motor-robe, and got 
back into the car,' thinking this quietly, with a certain de- 
tachment and inattention, because there was something else 
about to obliterate it. 'Something dreadful that I have for- 
gotten about/ she thought, watching the swift and increasing 
signs which brought Mills City nearer and nearer. 'Some- 
thing terrible that I shall remember in a minute,' saying 
aloud, quietly: "There's nothing else I can do now, is there?" 

Still Paul did not look at her. "No," he said. "There's 
nothing else you can do." 

Then she remembered what it was she had forgotten. She 
remembered her grandmother, thinking of the old woman 


2o8 The Village 

with her dead hearing and her inescapable cold eyes waiting 
at Mills City, with amazed and quiet despair: 'How could 
I have ever forgot about her? How could I have? How 
could I?' 

She was eighteen. She lived in Jefferson, two hundred 
miles away, with her father and mother and grandmother, 
in a biggish house. It had a deep veranda with screening 
vines and no lights. In this shadow she half lay almost nightly 
with a different man youths and young men of the town 
at first, but later with almost anyone, any transient in the 
small town whom she met by either convention or by 
chance, provided his appearance was decent. She would 
never ride in their cars with them at night, and presently 
they all believed that they knew why, though they did not 
always give up hope at once until the courthouse clock 
struck eleven. Then for perhaps five minutes longer they 
(who had been practically speechless for an hour or more) 
would talk in urgent whispers: 

"You must go now." 

"No. Not now." 

"Yes. Now." 


"Because. I'm tired. I want to go to bed." 

"I see. So far, and no mother. Is that it?" 

"Maybe." In the shadow now she would be alert, cool, 
already fled, without moving, beyond some secret reserve 
of laughter. And he would leave, and she would enter the 
dark house and look up at the single square of light which 
fell upon the upper hallway, and change completely. Wearily 
now, with the tread almost of an old woman, she would 
mount the stairs and pass the open door of the lighted room 
where her grandmother sat, erect, an open book in her 
hands, facing the hall. Usually she did not look into the 
room when she passed. But now *nd then she did. Then 

Elly 209 

for an instant they would look full at one another: the old 
woman cold, piercing; the girl weary, spent, her face, her 
dark dilated eyes, filled with impotent hatred. Then she 
would go on and enter her own room and lean for a time 
against the door, hearing the grandmother's light click off 
presently, sometimes crying silently and hopelessly, whis- 
pering, "The old bitch. The old bitch." Then this would 
pass. She would undress and look at her face in the mirror, 
examining her mouth now pale of paint and heavy, flattened 
(so she would believe) and weary and dulled with kissing, 
thinking 'My God. Why do I do it? What is the matter 
with me?' thinking of how tomorrow she must face the old 
woman again with the mark of last night upon her mouth 
like bruises, with a feeling of the pointlessness and emptiness 
of life more profound than the rage or the sense of perse- 

Then one afternoon at the home of a girl friend she met 
Paul de Montigny. After he departed the two girls were 
alone. Now they looked at one another quietly, like two 
swordsmen, with veiled eyes. 

"So you like him, do you?" the friend said. "You've got 
queer taste, haven't you?" 

"Like who?" Elly said. "I don't know who you are talk- 
ing about." 

"Oh yeah?" the friend said. "You didn't notice his hair 
then. Like a knitted cap. And his lips. Blubber, almost." Elly 
looked at her. 

"What are you talking about?" Elly said. 

"Nothing," the other said. She glanced toward the hall, 
then she took a cigarette from the front of her dress and lit 
it. "I don't know anything about it. I just heard it, too. How 
his uncle killed a man once that accused him of having nigger 

"You're lying," Elly said. 

210 The Village 

The other expelled smoke. "All right. Ask your grand- 
mother about his family. Didn't she used to live in Louisiana 

"What about you?" Elly said. "You invited him into your 

"I wasn't hid in the cloak closet, kissing him, though." 

"Oh, yeah?" Elly said. "Maybe you couldn't." 

"Not till you got your face out of the way, anyhow," the 
other said. 

That night she and Paul sat on the screened and shadowed 
veranda. But at eleven o'clock it was she who was urgent 
and tense: "No! No! Please. Please." 

"Oh, come on. What are you afraid of?" 

"Yes. I'm afraid. Go, please. Please." 

"Tomorrow, then?" 

"No. Not tomorrow or any time." 

"Yes. Tomorrow." 

This time she did not look in when she passed her grand- 
mother's door. Neither did she lean against her own door 
to cry. But she was panting, saying aloud against the door 
in thin exultation: "A nigger. A nigger. I wonder what she 
would say if she knew about that." 

The next afternoon Paul walked up onto the veranda. 
Elly was sitting in the swing, her grandmother in a chair 
nearby. She rose and met Paul at the steps. "Why did you 
come here?" she said. "Why did you?" Then she turned 
and seemed to watch herself walking before him toward the 
thin old woman sitting bolt upright, sitting bolt and impla- 
cably chaste in that secret place, peopled with ghosts, very 
likely to Elly at any given moment uncountable and un- 
namable, who might well have owned one single mouth. 
She leaned down, screaming: "This is Mr. de Montigny, 
Grandmother! " 


Elly 2 1 1 

"Mr. de Montigny! From Louisiana!" she screamed, and 
saw the grandmother, without moving below the hips, start 
violently backward as a snake does to strike. That was in 
the afternoon. That night Elly quitted the veranda for the 
first time. She and Paul were in a close clump of shrubbery 
on the lawn; in the wild close dark for that instant Elly 
was lost, her blood aloud with desperation and exultation 
and vindication too, talking inside her at the very brink of 
surrender loud as a voice: "I wish she were here to see! I 
wish she were here to see!" when something there had 
been no sound shouted at her and she made a mad awkward 
movement of recovery. The grandmother stood just behind 
and above them. When she had arrived, how long she had 
been there, they did not know. But there she stood, saying 
nothing, in the long anti-climax while Paul departed without 
haste and Elly stood, thinking stupidly, 'I am caught in sin 
without even having time to sin.' Then she was in her room, 
leaning against the door, trying to still her breathing, listen- 
ing for the grandmother to mount the stairs and go to her 
father's room. But the old woman's footsteps ceased at her 
own door. Elly went to her bed and lay upon it without 
undressing, still panting, the blood still aloud. 'So/ she 
thought, 'it will be tomorrow. She will tell him in the morn- 
ing.' Then she began to writhe, to toss lightly from side to 
side. 'I didn't even have a chance to sin,' she thought, with 
panting and amazed regret. 'She thinks I did and she will tell 
that I did, yet I am still virgin. She drove me to it, then pre- 
vented me at the last moment.' Then she was lying with the 
sun in her eyes still fully dressed. 'So it will be this morning, 
today/ she thought dully. 'My God. How could I. How 
could I. I don't want any man, anything.' 

She was waiting in the dining-room when her father came 
down to breakfast. He said nothing, apparently knew noth- 
ing. 'Maybe it's mother she told/ Elly thought. But after a 

zi2 The Village 

while her mother, too, appeared and departed for town also, 
saying nothing. 'So it has not been yet,' she thought, mount- 
ing the stairs. Her grandmother's door was closed. "When 
she opened it, the old woman was sitting up in bed, reading 
a newspaper; she looked up, cold, still, implacable, while 
Elly screamed at her in the empty house: "What else can I 
do, in this little dead, hopeless town? I'll work. I don't want 
to be idle. Just find me a job anything, anywhere, so that 
it's so far away that I'll never have to hear the word Jeffer- 
son again." She was named for the grandmother Ailanthia, 
though the old woman had not heard her own name or her 
granddaughter's or anyone else's in almost fifteen years save 
when it was screamed at her as Elly now screamed: "It 
hadn't even happened last night! Won't you believe me? 
That's it. It hadn't even happened! At least, I would have 
had something, something . . ." with the other watching her 
with that cold, fixed, immobile, inescapable gaze of the very 
deaf. "All right!" Elly cried. "I'll get married then! Will you 
be satisfied then?" 

That afternoon she met Paul downtown. "Was everything 
all right last night?" he said. "Why, what is it? Did they " 

"No. Paul, marry me." They were in the rear of the 
drugstore, partially concealed by the prescription counter, 
though anyone might appear behind it at any moment. She 
leaned against him, her face wan, tense, her painted mouth 
like a savage scar upon it. "Marry me. Or it will be too late, 

"I don't marry them," Paul said. "Here. Pull yourself 

She leaned against him, rife with promise. Her voice was 
wan and urgent. "We almost did last night. If you'll marry 
me, I will" 

"You will, eh? Before or after?" 

"Yes. Now. Any time." 

Elly 2 1 3 

"I'm sorry," he said. 

"Not even if I will now?" 

"Come on, now. Pull yourself together." 

"Oh, I can hear you. But I don't believe you. And I am 
afraid to try and find out." She began to cry. He spoke in 
thin and mounting annoyance: 

"Stop it, I tell you!" 

"Yes. All right. I've stopped. You won't, then? I tell you, 
it will be too late." 

"Hell, no. I don't marry them, I tell you." 

"All right. Then it's good-bye. Forever." 

"That's O.K. by me, too. If that's how you feel. If I ever 
see you again, you know what it will mean. But no marry- 
ing. And I'll see next time that we don't have any audience," 

"There won't be any next time," Elly said. 

The next day he was gone. A week later, her engagement 
was in the Memphis papers. It was to a young man whom 
she had known from childhood. He was assistant cashier in 
the bank, who they said would be president of it some day. 
He was a grave, sober young man of impeccable character 
and habits, who had been calling on her for about a year 
with a kind of placid formality. He took supper with the 
family each Sunday night, and when infrequent road shows 
came to town he always bought tickets for himself and Elly 
and her mother. When he called on her, even after the 
engagement was announced, they did not sit in the dark 
swing. Perhaps he did not know that anyone had ever sat 
in it in the darkness. No one sat in it at all now, and Elly 
passed the monotonous round of her days in a kind of dull 
peace. Sometimes at night she cried a little, though not often; 
now and then she examined her mouth in the glass and cried 
quietly, with quiet despair and resignation. 'Anyway I can 
live quietly now,' she thought. 'At least I can live out the 
rest of my dead life as quietly as if I were already dead.' 

Then one dav. without warning, as though she, too, had 

214 The Village 

accepted the armistice and the capitulation, the grandmother 
departed to visit her son in Mills City. Her going seemed to 
leave the house bigger and emptier than it had ever been, 
as if the grandmother had been the only other actually living 
person in it. There were sewing women in the house daily 
now, making the trousseau, yet Elly seemed to herself to 
move quietly and aimlessly, in a hiatus without thought or 
sense, from empty room to empty room giving upon an 
identical prospect too familiar and too peaceful to be even 
saddening any longer. For long hours now she would stand 
at her mother's bedroom window, watching the slow and 
infinitesimal clematis tendrils as they crept and overflowed 
up the screen and onto the veranda roof with the augment- 
ing summer. Two months passed so; she would be married 
in three weeks. Then one day her mother said, "Your grand- 
mother wants to come home Sunday. Why don't you and 
Philip drive down to Mills City and spend Saturday night 
with your uncle, and bring her back Sunday?" Five minutes 
later, at the mirror, Elly looked at her reflection as you look 
at someone who has just escaped a fearful danger. 'God,' 
she thought, 'what was I about to do? What 'was I about 
to do? 

Within the hour she had got Paul on the telephone, leav- 
ing home to do it, taking what precautions for secrecy her 
haste would afford her. 

"Saturday morning?" he said. 

"Yes. I'll tell mother Phi ... he wants to leave early, at 
daylight. They won't recognize you or the car. I'll be ready 
and we can get away quick." 

"Yes." She could hear the wire, distance; she had a feeling 
of exultation, escape. "But you know what it means. If I 
come back. What I told you." 

"I'm not afraid. I still don't believe you, but I am not 
afraid to try it now." 

Elly 215 

Again she could hear the wire. "I'm not going to marry 
you, Elly." 

"All right, darling. I tell you I'm not afraid to try it any 
more. Exactly at daylight. I'll be waiting." 

She went to the bank. After a time Philip was free and 
came to her where she waited, her face tense and wan 
beneath the paint, her eyes bright and hard. "There is some- 
thing you must do for me. It's hard to ask, and I guess it will 
be hard to do." 

"Of course I'll do it. What is it?" 

"Grandmother is coming home Sunday. Mother wants 
you and me to drive down Saturday and bring her back." 

"All right. I can get away Saturday." 

"Yes. You see, I told you it would be hard. I don't want 
you to go." 

"Don't want me to . . ." He looked at her bright, almost 
haggard face. "You want to go alone?" She didn't answer, 
watching him. Suddenly she came and leaned against him 
with a movement practiced, automatic. She took one of his 
arms and drew it around her. "Oh," he said. "I see. You 
want to go with someone else." 

"Yes. I can't explain now. But I will later. But mother will 
never understand. She won't let me go unless she thinks it 
is you." 

"I see." His arm was without life; she held it about her. 
"It's another man you want to go with." 

She laughed, not loud, not long. "Don't be foolish. Yes. 
There's another man in the party. People you don't know 
and that I don't expect to see again before I am married. 
But mother won't understand. That's why I must ask you. 
Will you do it?" 

"Yes. It's all right. If we can't trust one another, we 
haven't got any business marrying." 

"Yes. We must trust one another." She released his arm. 

216 The Village 

She looked at him intently, speculatively, with a cold and 
curious contempt. "And you'll let mother believe . . ." 

"You can trust me. You know that." 

"Yes. I'm sure I can." Suddenly she held out her hand. 


She leaned against him again. She kissed him. "Careful," 
he said. "Somebody might . . ." 

"Yes. Until later, then. Until I explain." She moved back, 
looked at him absently, speculatively. "This is the last 
trouble I'll ever give you, I expect. Maybe this will be 
worth that to you. Good-bye." 

That was Thursday afternoon. On Saturday morning, at 
dawn, when Paul stopped his car before the dark house, she 
seemed to materialize at once, already running across the 
lawn. She sprang into the car before he could descend and 
open the door, swirling down into the seat, leaning forward 
and taut with urgency and flight like an animal. "Hurry!" 
she said. "Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!" 

But he held the car a moment longer. "Remember. I told 
you what it meant if I came back. O.K.?" 

"I heard you. I tell you I'm not afraid to risk it now. 
Hurry! Hurry!" 

And then, ten hours later, with the Mills City signs in- 
creasing with irrevocable diminishment, she said, "So you 
won't marry me? You won't?" 

"I told you that all the time." 

"Yes. But I didn't believe you. I didn't believe you. I 
thought that when I after And now there is nothing else 
I can do, is there?" 

"No," he said. 

"No," she repeated. Then she began to laugh, her voice 
beginning to rise. 

"Elly!" he said. "Stop it, now!" 

Elly 2 1 7 

"All right," she said. "I just happened to think about my 
grandmother. I had forgotten her." 

Pausing at the turn of the stair, Elly could hear Paul and 
her uncle and aunt talking in the living-room below. She 
stood quite still, in an attitude almost pensive, nun-like, 
virginal, as though posing, as though she had escaped for the 
moment into a place where she had forgotten where she came 
from and where she intended to go. Then a clock in the hall 
struck eleven, and she moved. She went on up the stairs 
quietly and went to the door of her cousin's room, which 
she was to occupy for the night, and entered. The grand- 
mother sat in a low chair beside the dressing table littered 
with the frivolous impedimenta of a young girl . . . bottles, 
powder puffs, photographs, a row of dance programs stuck 
into the mirror frame. Elly paused. They looked at one 
another for a full moment before the old woman spoke: 
"Not contented with deceiving your parents and your 
friends, you must bring a Negro into my son's house as a 

"Grandmother!" Elly said. 

"Having me sit down to table with a negro man." 

"Grandmother!" Elly cried in that thin whisper, her face 
haggard and grimaced. She listened. Feet, voices were com- 
ing up the stairs, her aunt's voice and Paul's. "Hush!" Elly 
cried. "Hush!" 

"What? What did you say?" 

Elly ran to the chair and stooped and laid her fingers on 
the old woman's thin and bloodless lips and, one furiously 
importunate and the other furiously implacable, they glared 
eye to eye across the hand while the feet and the voices 
passed the door and ceased. Elly removed her hand. From 
the row of them in the mirror frame she jerked one of the 
cards with its silken cord and tiny futile pencil. She wrote 

218 The Village 

on the back of the card. He is not a negro he 'went to Va. 
and Harvard and everywhere. 

The grandmother read the card. She looked up. "I can 
understand Harvard, but not Virginia. Look at his hair, his 
fingernails, if you need proof. I don't. I know the name 
which his people have borne for four generations." She re- 
turned the card. "That man must not sleep under this roof." 

Elly took another card and scrawled swiftly. He shall. He 
is my guest. I asked him here. You are my grandmother you 
'would not have me treat any guest that way not even a dog. 

The grandmother read it. She sat with the card in her 
hand. "He shall not drive me to Jefferson. I will not put a foot 
in that car, and you shall not. We will go home on the train. 
No blood of mine shall ride with him again." 

Elly snatched another card, scrawled furiously. I will. 
You cannot stop me. Try and stop me. 

The grandmother read it. She looked at Elly. They glared 
at one another. "Then I will have to tell your father." 

Already Elly was writing again. She thrust the card at her 
grandmother almost before the pencil had ceased; then in the 
same motion she tried to snatch it back. But the grandmother 
had already grasped the corner of it and now they glared 
at one another, the card joining them like a queer umbilical 
cord. "Let go!" Elly cried. "Let it go!" 

"Turn loose," the grandmother said. 

"Wait," Elly cried thinly, whispering, tugging at the card, 
twisting it. "I made a mistake. I " With an astonishing 
movement, the grandmother bent the card up as Elly tried to 
snatch it free. 

"Ah," she said, then she read aloud: Tell him. What do 
you know. "So. You didn't finish it, I see. What do I know?" 

"Yes," Elly said. Then she began to speak in a fierce whis- 
per: "Tell him! Tell him we went into a clump of trees 
this morning and stayed there two hours. Tell him!" The 

Elly 219 

grandmother folded the card carefully and quietly. She rose. 
"Grandmother!" Elly cried. 

"My stick," the grandmother said. "There; against the 

When she was gone Elly went to the door and turned the 
latch and recrossed the room. She moved quietly, getting a 
robe of her cousin's from the closet, and undressed, slowly, 
pausing to yawn terrifically. "God, Pm tired," she said aloud, 
yawning. She sat down at the dressing table and began to 
manicure her nails with the cousin's equipment. There was 
a small ivory clock on the dressing table. She glanced at it 
now and then. 

Then the clock below stairs struck midnight. She sat for 
a moment longer with her head above her glittering nails, 
listening to the final stroke. Then she looked at the ivory 
one beside her. I'd hate to catch a train by you,' she thought. 
As she looked at it her face began again to fill with the weary 
despair of the afternoon. She went to the door and passed 
into the dark hall. She stood in the darkness, on her naked 
feet, her head bent, whimpering quietly to herself with 
bemused and childish self-pity. 'Everything's against me,' 
she thought. 'Everything.' When she moved, her feet made 
no sound. She walked with her arms extended into the dark- 
ness. She seemed to feel her eyeballs turning completely and 
blankly back into her skull with the effort to see. She entered 
the bathroom and locked the door. Then haste and urgency 
took her again. She ran to the angle of the wall beyond 
which the guest room was and stooped, cupping her voice 
into the angle with her hands. "Paul!" she whispered, "Paul!" 
holding her breath while the dying and urgent whisper 
failed against the cold plaster. She stooped, awkward in the 
borrowed robe, her blind eyes unceasing in the darkness with 
darting despair. She ran to the lavatory , found the tap in the 
darkness and tempered the drip of water to a minor but 

220 The Village 

penetrating monotony. Then she opened the door and stood 
just within it. She heard the clock below stairs strike the 
half hour. She had not stirred, shaking slowly as with cold, 
when it struck one. 

She heard Paul as soon as he left the guest room. She heard 
him come down the hall; she heard his hand seek the switch. 
When it clicked on, she found that her eyes were closed. 

"What's this?" Paul said. He wore a suit of her uncle's 
pajamas. "What the devil " 

"Lock the door," she whispered. 

"Like hell. You fool. You damned fool." 

"Paul!" She held him as though she expected him to flee. 
She shut the door behind him and fumbled for the latch 
when he caught her wrist. 

"Let me out of here!" he whispered. 

She leaned against him, shaking slowly, holding him. Her 
eyes showed no iris at all. "She's going to tell daddy. She's 
going to tell daddy to-morrow, Paul!" Between the whispers 
the water dripped its unhurried minor note. 

"Tell what? What does she know?" 

"Put your arms around me, Paul." 

"Hell, no. Let go. Let's get out of here." 

"Yes. You can help it. You can keep her from telling 

"How help it? Damn it, let me go!" 

"She will tell, but it won't matter then. Promise. Paul. 
Say you will." 

"Marry you? Is that what you are talking about? I told 
you yesterday I wouldn't. Let me go, I tell you." 

"All right. All right." She spoke in an eager whisper. "I 
believe you now. I didn't at first, but I do now. You needn't 
marry me, then. You can help it without marrying me." She 
clung to him, her hair, her body, rich with voluptuous and 
fainting promise. "You won't have to marry me. Will you 
do it?" 

Elly 221 

"Do what?" 

"Listen. You remember that curve with the little white 
fence, where it is so far down to the bottom? Where if a car 
went through that little fence. . . ." 

"Yes. What about it?" 

"Listen. You and she will be in the car. She won't know, 
won't have time to suspect. And that little old fence wouldn't 
stop anything and they will all say it was an accident. She 
is old; it wouldn't take much; maybe even the shock and 
you are young and maybe it won't even . . . Paul! Paul!" 
With each word her voice seemed to faint and die, speaking 
with a dying cadence out of urgency and despair while he 
looked down at her blanched face, at her eyes filled with 
desperate and voluptuous promise. "Paul!" 

"And where will you be all this time?" She didn't stir, 
her face like a sleepwalker's. "Oh. I see. You'll go home on 
the train. Is that it?" 

"Paul!" she said in that prolonged and dying whisper. 

In the instant of striking her his hand, as though refusing 
of its own volition the office, opened and touched her face 
in a long, shuddering motion almost a caress. Again, gripping 
her by the back of the neck, he assayed to strike her; again 
his hand, something, refused. When he flung her away she 
stumbled backward into the wall. Then his feet ceased and 
then the water began to fill the silence with its steady and 
unhurried sound. After a while the clock below struck two, 
and she moved wearily and heavily and closed the tap. 

But that did not seem to stop the sound of the water. It 
seemed to drip on into the silence where she lay rigid on 
her back in bed, not sleeping, not even thinking. It dripped 
on while behind the frozen grimace of her aching face she 
got through the ritual of breakfast and of departure, the 
grandmother between Paul and herself in the single seat. Even 
the sound of the car could not drown it out, until suddenly 

222 The Village 

she realized what it was. 'It's the signboards/ she thought, 
watching them as they diminished in retrograde. *I even 
remember that one; now it's only about two miles. I'll wait 
until the next one; then I will . . . now. Now.' "Paul," she 
said. He didn't look at her. "Will you marry me?" 

"No." Neither was she looking at his face. She was watch- 
ing his hands as they jockeyed the wheel slightly and con- 
stantly. Between them the grandmother sat, erect, rigid 
beneath the archaic black bonnet, staring straight ahead like 
a profile cut from parchment. 

"I'm going to ask you just once more. Then it will be too 
late. I tell you it will be too late then, Paul . . . Paul?" 

"No, I tell you. You don't love me. I don't love you. 
We've never said we did." 

"All right. Not love, then. Will you marry me without it? 
Remember, it \vill be too late." 

"No. I will not." 

"But why? Why, Paul?" He didn't answer. The car fled 
on. Now it was the first sign which she had noticed; she 
thought quietly, 'We must be almost there now. It is the 
next curve.' She said aloud, speaking across the deafness of 
the old woman between them: "Why not, Paul? If it's that 
story about nigger blood, I don't believe it. I don't care." 
Tes,' she thought, 'this is the curve.' The road entered the 
curve, descending. She sat back, and then she found her 
grandmother looking full at her. But she did not try now 
to veil her face, her eyes, any more than she would have tried 
to conceal her voice: "Suppose I have a child?" 

"Suppose you do? I can't help it now. You should have 
thought of that. Remember, you sent for me; I didn't ask 
to come back." 

"No. You didn't ask. I sent for you. I made you. And this 
is the last time. Will you? Quick!" 


Elly 223 

"All right," she said. She sat back; at that instant the road 
seemed to poise and pause before plunging steeply down- 
ward beside the precipice; the white fence began to flicker 
past. As Elly flung the robe aside she saw her grandmother 
still watching her; as she lunged forward across the old 
woman's knees they glared eye to eye the haggard and 
desperate girl and the old woman whose hearing had long 
since escaped everything and whose sight nothing escaped 
for a profound instant of despairing ultimatum and im- 
placable refusal. "Then die!" she cried into the old woman's 
face; "die!" grasping at the wheel as Paul tried to fling her 
back. But she managed to get her elbow into the wheel 
spokes with all her weight on it, sprawling across her grand- 
mother's body, holding the wheel hard over as Paul struck 
her on the mouth with his fist. "Oh," she screamed, "you hit 
me. You hit me!" When the car struck the railing it flung 
her free, so that for an instant she lay lightly as an alighting 
bird upon Paul's chest, her mouth open, her eyes round with 
shocked surprise. "You hit me!" she wailed. Then she was 
falling free, alone in a complete and peaceful silence like a 
vacuum. Paul's face, her grandmother, the car, had disap- 
peared, vanished as though by magic; parallel with her eyes 
the shattered ends of white railing, the crumbling edge of the 
precipice where dust whispered and a faint gout of it hung 
like a toy balloon, rushed mutely skyward. 

Overhead somewhere a sound passed, dying away the 
snore of an engine, the long hissing of tires in gravel, then 
the wind sighed in the trees again, shivering the crests against 
the sky. Against the bole of one of them the car lay in an 
inextricable and indistinguishable mass, and Elly sat in a 
litter of broken glass, staring dully at it. "Something hap- 
pened," she whimpered. "He hit me. And now they are 
dead; it's me that's hurt, and nobody will come." She moaned 
a little, whimpering. Then with an air of dazed astonish- 

224 The Village 

ment she raised her hand. The palm was red and wet. She 
sat whimpering quietly, digging stupidly at her palm. 
"There's glass all in it and I can't even see it," she said, whim- 
pered, gazing at her palm while the warm blood stained 
slowly down upon her skirt. Again the sound rushed steadily 
past high overhead, and died away. She looked up, following 
it. "There goes another one," she whimpered. "They won't 
even stop to see if I am hurt." 

Uncle Willy 

I KNOW what they said. They said I didn't run away from 
home but that I was tolled away by a crazy man who, if I 
hadn't killed him first, would have killed me inside another 
week. But if they had said that the women, the good women 
in Jefferson had driven Uncle Willy out of town and I fol- 
lowed him and did what I did because I knew that Uncle 
Willy was on his last go-round and this time when they got 
him again it would be for good and forever, they would have 
been right. Because I wasn't tolled away and Uncle Willy 
wasn't crazy, not even after all they had done to him. I 
didn't have to go; I didn't have to go any more than Uncle 
Willy had to invite me instead of just taking it for granted 
that I wanted to come. I went because Uncle Willy was the 
finest man I ever knew, because even women couldn't beat 
him, because in spite of them he wound up his life getting 
fun out of being alive and he died doing the thing that was 
the most fun of all because I was there to help him. And 
that's something that most men and even most women too 
don't get to do, not even the women that call meddling with 
other folks' lives fun. 

He wasn't anybody's uncle, but all of us, and grown people 
too, called him (or thought of him) as Uncle Willy. He 
didn't have any kin at all except a sister in Texas married 
to an oil millionaire. He lived by himself in a little old neat 


226 * The Village 

white house where he had been born on the edge of town, 
he and an old nigger named Job Wylie that was older than 
he was even, that cooked and kept the house and was the 
porter at the drugstore which Uncle Willy's father had 
established and which Uncle Willy ran without any other 
help than old Job; and during the twelve or fourteen years 
(the life of us as children and then boys), while he just used 
dope, we saw a lot of him. We liked to go to his store because 
it was always cool and dim and quiet inside because he never 
washed the windows; he said the reason was that he never 
had to bother to dress them because nobody could see in 
anyway, and so the heat couldn't get in either. And he never 
had any customers except country people buying patent 
medicines that were already in bottles, and niggers buying 
cards and dice, because nobody had let him fill a prescription 
in forty years I reckon, and he never had any soda fountain 
trade because it was old Job who washed the glasses and 
mixed the syrups and made the ice cream ever since Uncle 
Willy's father started the business in eighteen-fifty-some- 
thing and so old Job couldn't see very well now, though 
papa said he didn't think that old Job took dope too, it was 
from breathing day and night the air which Uncle Willy 
had just exhaled. 

But the ice cream tasted all right to us, especially when we 
came in hot from the ball games. We had a league of three 
teams in town and Uncle Willy would give the prize, a ball 
or a bat or a mask, for each game though he would never 
come to see us play, so after the game both teams and maybe 
all three would go to the store to watch the winner get the 
prize. And we would eat the ice cream and then we would 
all go behind the prescription case and watch Uncle Willy 
light the little alcohol stove and fill the needle and roll his 
sleeve up over the little blue myriad punctures starting at 
his elbow and going right on up into his shirt. And the next 

Uncle Willy 227 

day would be Sunday and we would wait in our yards and 
fall in with him as he passed from house to house and go on 
to Sunday school, Uncle Willy with us, in the same class 
with us, sitting there while we recited. Mr. Barbour from the 
Sunday school never called on him. Then we would finish 
the lesson and we would talk about baseball until the bell 
rang and Uncle Willy still not saying anything, just sitting 
there all neat and clean, with his clean collar and no tie and 
weighing about a hundred and ten pounds and his eyes 
behind his glasses kind of all run together like broken eggs. 
Then we would all go to the store and eat the ice cream 
that was left over from Saturday and then go behind the 
prescription case and watch him again: the little stove and 
his Sunday shirt rolled up and the needle going slow into 
his blue arm and somebody would say, "Don't it hurt?" and 
he would say, "No. I like it." 


THEN THEY made him quit dope. He had been using it for 
forty years, he told us once, and now he was sixty and he 
had about ten years more at the outside, only he didn't tell 
us that because he didn't need to tell even fourteen-year-old 
boys that. But they made him quit. It didn't take them long. 
It began one Sunday morning and it was finished by the 
next Friday; we had just sat down in our class and Mr. Bar- 
bour had just begun, when all of a sudden Reverend Schultz, 
the minister, was there, leaning over Uncle Willy and already 
hauling him out of his seat when we looked around, hauling 
him up and saying in that tone in which preachers speak to 
fourteen-year-old boys that I don't believe even pansy boys 
like: "Now, Brother Christian, I know you will hate to 
leave Brother Barbour's class, but let's you and I go in and 
join Brother Miller and the men and hear what he can tell 

228 The Village 

us on this beautiful and heartwarming text," and Uncle 
Willy still trying to hold back and looking around at us 
with his run-together eyes blinking and saying plainer than 
if he had spoke it: "What's this? What's this, fellows? What 
are they fixing to do to me?" 

We didn't know any more than he did. We just finished 
the lesson; we didn't talk any baseball that day; and we 
passed the alcove where Mr. Miller's men's Bible class met, 
with Reverend Schultz sitting in the middle of them like he 
did every Sunday, like he was just a plain man like the rest 
of them yet kind of bulging out from among the others like 
he didn't have to move or speak to keep them reminded that 
he wasn't a plain man; and I would always think about April 
Fool's one year when Miss Callaghan called the roll and then 
stepped down from her desk and said, "Now I'm going to 
be a pupil today," and took a vacant seat and called out a 
name and made them go to her desk and hold the lesson and 
it would have been fun if you could have just quit remem- 
bering that tomorrow wouldn't be April Fool's and the day 
after that wouldn't be either. And Uncle Willy was sitting 
by Reverend Schultz looking littler than ever, and I thought 
about one day last summer when they took a country man 
named Bundren to the asylum at Jackson but he wasn't too 
crazy not to know where he was going, sitting there in the 
coach window handcuffed to a fat deputy sheriff that was 
smoking a cigar. 

Then Sunday school was over and we went out to wait 
for him, to go to the store and eat the ice cream. And he 
didn't come out. He didn't come out until church was over 
too, the first time that he had ever stayed for church that 
any of us knew of that anybody knew of, papa told me 
later coming out with Mrs. Merridew on one side of him 
and Reverend Schultz on the other still holding him by the 
arm and he looking around at us again with his eyes saying 

Uncle Willy 229 

again only desperate now: "Fellows, what's this? What's 
this, fellows?" and Reverend Schultz shoving him into Mrs. 
Merridew's car and Airs. Merridew saying, loud, like she was 
in the pulpit: "Now, Mr. Christian, I'm going to take you 
right out to my house and I'm going to fix you a nice glass 
of cool lemonade and then we will have a nice chicken dinner 
and then you are going to take a nice nap in my hammock 
and then Brother and Sister Schultz are coming out and we 
will have some nice ice cream," and Uncle Willy saying, 
"No. Wait, ma'am, wait! Wait! I got to go to the store and 
fill a prescription I promised this morning " 

So they shoved him into the car and him looking back at 
us where we stood there; he went out of sight like that, 
sitting beside Mrs. Merridew in the car like Darl Bundren 
and the deputy on the train, and I reckon she was holding 
his wrist and I reckon she never needed any handcuffs and 
Uncle Willy giving us that single look of amazed and des- 
perate despair. 

Because now he was already an hour past the time for his 
needle and that afternoon when he finally slipped away from 
Mrs. Merridew he was five hours past it and so he couldn't 
even get the key into the lock, and so Mrs. Merridew and 
Reverend Schultz caught him and this time he wasn't talking 
or looking either: he was trying to get away like a half-wild 
cat tries to get away. They took him to his home and Mrs. 
Merridew telegraphed his sister in Texas and Uncle Willy 
didn't come to town for three days because Mrs. Merridew 
and Mrs. Hovis took turn about staying in the house with 
him day and night until his sister could get there. That was 
vacation then and we played the game on Monday and that 
afternoon the store was still locked and Tuesday it was still 
locked, and so it was not until Wednesday afternoon and 
Uncle Willy was running fast. 

He didn't have any shirt on and he hadn't shaved and he 

230 The Village 

could not get the key into the lock at all, panting and whim- 
pering and saying, "She went to sleep at last; she went to 
sleep at last," until one of us took the key and unlocked the 
door. We had to light the little stove too and fill the needle 
and this time it didn't go into his arm slow, it looked like 
he was trying to jab it clean through the bone. He didn't go 
back home. He said he wouldn't need anything to sleep on 
and he gave us the money and let us out the back door and 
we bought the sandwiches and the bottle of coffee from the 
cafe and we left him there. 

Then the next day, it was Mrs. Merridew and Reverend 
Schultz and three more ladies; they had the marshal break in 
the door and Mrs. Merridew holding Uncle Willy by the 
back of the neck and shaking him and kind of whispering, 
"You little wretch! You little wretch! Slip off from me, will 
you?" and Reverend Schultz saying, "Now, Sister; now, 
Sister; control yourself," and the other ladies hollering Mr. 
Christian and Uncle Willy and Willy, according to how old 
they were or how long they had lived in Jefferson. It didn't 
take them long. 

The sister got there from Texas that night and we would 
walk past the house and see the ladies on the front porch or 
going in and out, and now and then Reverend Schultz kind 
of bulging out from among them like he would out of Mr. 
Miller's Bible class, and we could crawl up behind the hedge 
and hear them through the window, hear Uncle Willy cry- 
ing and cussing and fighting to get out of the bed and the 
ladies saying, "Now, Mr. Christian; now, Uncle Willy," 
and "Now, Bubber," too, since his sister was there; and 
Uncle Willy crying and praying and cussing. And then it 
was Friday, and he gave up. We could hear them holding 
him in the bed; I reckon this was his last go-round, because 
none of them had time to talk now; and then we heard him, 
his voice weak but clear and his breath going in and out. 

Uncle Willy 231 

"Wait," he said. "Wait! I will ask it one more time. Won't 
you please quit? Won't you please go away? Won't you 
please go to hell and just let me come on at my own gait?" 

"No, Mr. Christian," Mrs. Merridew said. "We are doing 
this to save you." 

For a minute we didn't hear anything. Then we heard 
Uncle Willy lay back in the bed, kind of flop back. 

"All right," he said. "All right." 

It was like one of those sheep they would sacrifice back 
in the Bible. It was like it had climbed up onto the altar 
itself and flopped onto its back with its throat held up and 
said: "All right. Come on and get it over with. Cut my 
damn throat and go away and let me lay quiet in the fire." 


HE WAS SICK for a long time. They took him to Memphis 
and they said that he was going to die. The store stayed 
locked all the time now, and after a few weeks we didn't 
even keep up the league. It wasn't just the balls and the bats. 
It wasn't that. We would pass the store and look at the big 
old lock on it and at the windows you couldn't even see 
through, couldn't even see inside where we used to eat the 
ice cream and tell him who beat and who made the good 
plays and him sitting there on his stool with the little stove 
burning and the dope boiling and bubbling and the needle 
waiting in his hand, looking at us with his eyes blinking 
and all run together behind his glasses so you couldn't even 
tell where the pupil was like you can in most eyes. And the 
niggers and the country folks that used to trade with him 
coming up and looking at the lock too, and asking us how 
he was and when he would come home and open up again. 
Because even after the store opened again, they would not 
trade with the clerk that Mrs. Merridew and Reverend 

232 The Village 

Schultz put in the store. Uncle Willy's sister said not to 
bother about the store, to let it stay shut because she would 
take care of Uncle Willy if he got well. But Mrs. Merridew 
said no, she not only aimed to cure Uncle Willy, she was 
going to give him a complete rebirth, not only into real 
Christianity but into the practical world too, with a place 
in it waiting for him so he could hold up his head not only 
with honor but pride too among his fellow men; she said 
that at first her only hope had been to fix it so he would not 
have to face his Maker slave body and soul to morphine, 
but now since his constitution was stronger than anybody 
could have believed, she was going to see that he assumed 
that position in the world which his family's name entitled 
him to before he degraded it. 

She and Reverend Schultz found the clerk. He had 
been in Jefferson about six months. He had letters 
to the church, but nobody except Reverend Schultz and 
Mrs. Merridew knew anything about him. That is, they 
made him the clerk in Uncle Willy's store; nobody else 
knew anything about him at all. But Uncle Willy's old 
customers wouldn't trade with him. And we didn't either. 
Not that we had much trade to give him and we certainly 
didn't expect him to give us any ice cream and I don't 
reckon we would have taken it if he had offered it to us. 
Because it was not Uncle Willy, and pretty soon it wasn't 
even the same ice cream because the first thing the clerk 
did after he washed the windows was to fire old Job, only 
old Job refused to quit. He stayed around the store any- 
how, mumbling to himself and the clerk would run him 
out the front door and old Job would go around to the 
back and come in and the clerk would find him again and 
cuss him, whispering, cussing old Job good even if he did 
have letters to the church; he went and swore out a war- 
rant and the marshal told old Job he would have to stay out 

Uncle Willy 233 

of the store. Then old Job moved across the street. He 
would sit on the curb all day where he could watch the 
door and every time the clerk came in sight old Job would 
holler, "I ghy tell um! I ghy do hit!" So we even quit pass- 
ing the store. We would cut across the corner not to pass 
it, with the windows clean now and the new town trade the 
clerk had built up he had a lot of trade now going in 
and out, just stopping long enough to ask old Job about 
Uncle Willy, even though we had already got what news 
came from Memphis about him every day and we knew 
that old Job would riot know, would not be able to get it 
straight even if someone told him, since he never did believe 
that Uncle Willy was sick, he just believed that Mrs. Merri- 
dew had taken him away somewhere by main force and 
was holding him in another bed somewhere so he couldn't 
get up and come back home; and old Job sitting on the 
curb and blinking up at us with his little watery red eyes 
like Uncle Willy would and saying, U I ghy tell um! Holting 
him up dar whilst whipper-snappin' trash makin' free wid 
Marse Hoke Christian's sto. I ghy tell um!" 


UNCLE WILLY didn't die. One day he came home with his 
skin the color of tallow and weighing about ninety pounds 
now and with his eyes like broken eggs still but dead eggs, 
eggs that had been broken so long now that they didn't 
even smell dead any more until you looked at them and 
saw that they were anything in the world except dead. That 
was after he got to know us again. I don't mean that he had 
forgotten about us exactly. It was like he still liked us as 
boys, only he had never seen us before and so he would have 
to learn our names and which faces the names belonged to. 
His sister had gone back to Texas now, because Mrs. Merri- 

234 The Village 

dew was going to look after him until he was completely 
recovered, completely cured. Yes. Cured. 

I remember that first afternoon when he came to town 
and we walked into the store and Uncle Willy looked at the 
clean windows that you could see through now and at the 
town customers that never had traded with him, and at 
the clerk and said, "You're my clerk, hey?" and the clerk 
begun to talk about Mrs. Merridew and Reverend Schultz 
and Uncle Willy said, "All right, all right," and now he ate 
some ice cream too, standing at the counter with us like he 
was a customer too and still looking around the store while 
he ate the ice cream, with those eyes that were not dead at 
all and he said, "Looks like you been getting more work out 
of my damned old nigger than I could/' and the clerk began 
to say something else about Mrs. Merridew and Uncle Willy 
said, "All right, all right. Just get a holt of Job right away 
and tell him I am going to expect him to be here every day 
and that I want him to keep this store looking like this from 
now on." Then we went on behind the prescription case, 
with Uncle Willy looking around here too, at how the clerk 
had it neated up, with a big new lock on the cabinet where 
the drugs and such were kept, with those eyes that wouldn't 
anybody call dead, I don't care who he was, and said, "Step 
up there and tell that fellow I want my keys." But it wasn't 
the stove and the needle. Mrs. Merridew had busted both 
of them that day. But it wasn't that anyway, because the 
clerk came back and begun to talk about Mrs. Merridew 
and Reverend Schultz, and Uncle Willy listening and say- 
ing, "All right, all right," and we never had seen him laugh 
before and his face didn't change now but we knew that he 
was laughing behind it. Then we went out. He turned sharp 
off the square, down Nigger Row to Sonny Barger's store 
and I took the money and bought the Jamaica ginger from 
Sonny and caught up with them and we went home with 

Uncle Willy 235 

Uncle Willy and we sat in the pasture while he drank the 
Jamaica ginger and practiced our names some more. 

And that night we met him where he said. He had the 
wheelbarrow and the crowbar and we broke open the back 
door and then the cabinet with the new lock on it and got 
the can of alcohol and carried it to Uncle Willy's and buried 
it in the barn. It had almost three gallons in it and he didn't 
come to town at all for four weeks and he was sick again, 
and Mrs. Merridew storming into the house, jerking out 
drawers and flinging things out of closets and Uncle Willy 
lying in the bed and watching her with those eyes that were 
a long way from being dead. But she couldn't find anything 
because it was all gone now, and besides she didn't know 
what it was she was looking for because she was looking for 
a needle. And the night Uncle Willy was up again we took 
the crowbar and went back to the store and when we went 
to the cabinet we found that it was already open and Uncle 
Willy's stool sitting in the door and a quart bottle of alcohol 
on the stool in plain sight, and that was all. And then I knew 
that the clerk knew who got the alcohol before but I didn't 
know why he hadn't told Mrs. Merridew until two years 

I didn't know that for two years, and Uncle Willy a year 
now going to Memphis every Saturday in the car his sister 
had given him. I wrote the letter with Uncle Willy looking 
over my shoulder and dictating, about how his health was 
improving but not as fast as the doctor seemed to want and 
that the doctor said he ought not to walk back and forth to 
the store and so a car, not an expensive car, just a small car 
that he could drive himself or maybe find a negro boy to 
drive for him if his sister thought he ought not to: and she 
sent the money and he got a burr-headed nigger boy about 
my size named Secretary to drive it for him. That is, Secre- 
tary said he could drive a car; certainly he and Uncle Willy 

236 The Village 

both learned on the night trips they would make back into 
the hill country to buy corn whisky and Secretary learned to 
drive in Memphis pretty quick, too, because they went every 
Saturday, returning Monday morning with Uncle Willy 
insensible on the back seat, with his clothes smelling of that 
smell whose source I was not to discover at first hand for 
some years yet, and two or three half-empty bottles and a 
little notebook full of telephone numbers and names like 
Lorine and Billie and Jack. I didn't know it for two years, 
not until that Monday morning when the sheriff came and 
padlocked and sealed what was left of Uncle Willy's stock 
and when they tried to find the clerk they couldn't even 
find out what train he had left town on; a hot morning in 
July and Uncle Willy sprawled out on the back seat, and on 
the front seat with Secretary a woman twice as big as Uncle 
Willy, in a red hat and a pink dress and a dirty white fur 
coat over the back of the seat and two straw suitcases on the 
fenders, with hair the color of a brand new brass hydrant 
bib and her cheeks streaked with mascara and caked powder 
where she had sweated. 

It was worse than if he had started dope again. You would 
have thought he had brought smallpox to town. I remember 
how when Mrs. Merridew telephoned Mamma that after- 
noon you could hear her from away out at her house, over 
the wire, clean out to the back door and the kitchen: "Mar- 
ried! Married! Whore! Whore! Whore!" like the clerk used 
to cuss old Job, and so maybe the church can go just so 
far and maybe the folks that are in it are the ones that know 
the best or are entitled to say when to disconnect religion 
for a minute or two. And Papa was cussing too, not cussing 
anybody; I knew he was not cussing Uncle Willy or even 
Uncle Willy's new wife, just like I knew that I wished Mrs. 
Merridew could have been there to hear him. Only I reckon 
if she had been there she couldn't have heard anything be- 

Uncle Willy 237 

cause they said she still had on a house dress when she went 
and snatched Reverend Schultz into her car and went out 
to Uncle Willy's, where he was still in bed like always on 
Monday and Tuesday, and his new wife run Mrs. Merridew 
and Reverend Schultz out of the house with the wedding 
license like it was a gun or a knife. And I remember how all 
that afternoon Uncle Willy lived on a little quiet side 
street where the other houses were all little new ones that 
country people who had moved to town within the last fif- 
teen years, like mail carriers and little storekeepers, lived 
how all that afternoon mad-looking ladies with sun-bonnets 
on crooked came busting out of that little quiet street 
dragging the little children and the grown girls with them, 
heading for the mayor's office and Reverend Schultz's house, 
and how the young men and the boys that didn't work and 
some of the men that did would drive back and forth past 
Uncle Willy's house to look at her sitting on the porch smok- 
ing cigarettes and drinking something out of a glass; and how 
she came down town the next day to shop, in a black hat 
now and a red-and-white striped dress so that she looked 
like a great big stick of candy and three times as big as 
Uncle Willy now, walking along the street with men popping 
out of the stores when she passed like she was stepping on 
a line of spring triggers and both sides of her behind kind 
of pumping up and down inside the dress until somebody 
hollered, threw back his head and squalled: "YIPPEEE!" 
like that and she kind of twitched her behind without even 
stopping and then they hollered sure enough. 

And the next day the wire came from his sister, and Papa 
for the lawyer and Mrs. Merridew for the witness went out 
there and Uncle Willy's wife showed them the license and 
told them to laugh that off, that Manuel Street or not she 
was married as good and tight as any high-nosed bitch in 
Jefferson or anywhere else and Papa saying, "Now, Mrs. 

238 The Village 

Merridew; now, Mrs. Christian," and he told Uncle Willy's 
wife how Uncle Willy was bankrupt now and might even 
lose the house too, and his wife said how about that sister 
in Texas, was Papa going to tell her that the oil business was 
bankrupt too and not to make her laugh. So they telegraphed 
the sister again and the thousand dollars came and they had 
to give Uncle Willy's wife the car too. She went back to 
Memphis that same afternoon, driving across the square with 
the straw suitcases, in a black lace dress now and already 
beginning to sweat again under her new makeup because it 
was still hot, and stopping where the men were waiting at 
the post office for the afternoon mail and she said, "Come 
on up to Manuel Street and see me sometime and I will show 
you hicks what you and this town can do to yourselves and 
one another." 

And that afternoon Mrs. Merridew moved back into 
Uncle Willy's house and Papa said the letter she wrote 
Uncle Willy's sister had eleven pages to it because Papa said 
she would never forgive Uncle Willy for getting bankrupted. 
We could hear her from behind the hedge: "You're crazy, 
Mr. Christian; crazy. I have tried to save you and make 
something out of you besides a beast but now my patience 
is exhausted. I am going to give you one more chance. I am 
going to take you to Keeley and if that fails, I am going to 
.take you myself to your sister and force her to commit you 
to an asylum." And the sister sent papers from Texas declar- 
ing that Uncle Willy was incompetent and making Mrs. 
Merridew his guardian and trustee, and Mrs. Merridew took 
him to the Keeley in Memphis. And that was all. 


THAT is, I reckon they thought that that was all, that this 
lime Uncle Willy would surely die. Because even Papa 

Uncle Willy 239 

thought that he was crazy now because even Papa said that 
if it hadn't been for Uncle Willy I would not have run 
away, and therefore I didn't run away, I was tolled away 
by a lunatic; it wasn't Papa, it was Uncle Robert that said 
that he wasn't crazy because any man who could sell Jeffer- 
son real estate for cash while shut up in r, Keeley institute 
wasn't crazy or even drunk. Because they didn't even know 
that he was out of Keeley, even Mrs. Merridew didn't know 
it until he was gone two days and they couldn't find him. 
They never did find him or find out how he got out and 
I didn't either until I got the letter from him to take the 
Memphis bus on a certain day and he would meet me at a 
stop on the edge of Memphis. I didn't even realize that I had 
not seen Secretary or old Job either in two weeks. But he 
didn't toll me away. I went because I wanted to, because he 
was the finest man I ever knew, because he had had fun all 
his life in spite of what they had tried to do to him or with 
him, and I hoped that maybe if I could stay with him a 
while I could learn how to, so I could still have fun too when 
I had to get old. Or maybe I knew more than that, without 
knowing it, like I knew that I would do anything he asked 
me to do, no matter what it was, just like I helped him break 
into the store for the alcohol when he took it for granted 
that I would without asking me to at all and then helped 
him hide it from Mrs. Merridew. Maybe I even knew what 
old Job was going to do. Not what he did do, but that he 
would do it if the occasion arose, and that this would have 
to be Uncle Willy's last go-round and if I wasn't there it 
would be just him against all the old terrified and timid cling- 
ing to dull and rule-ridden breathing which Jefferson was to 
him and which, even though he had escaped Jefferson, old 
Job still represented. 

So I cut some grass that week and I had almost two dollars. 
I took the bus on the day he said and he was waiting for me 

240 The Village 

at the edge of town, in a Ford now without any top on it and 
you could still read the chalk letters, $85 cash on the wind- 
shield, and a brand new tent folded up in the back of it and 
Uncle Willy and old Job in the front seat, and Uncle Willy 
looked fine with a checked cap new except for a big oil 
stain, with the bill turned round behind and a pair of goggles 
cocked up on the front of it and his celluloid collar freshly 
washed and no tie in it and his nose peeling with sunburn 
and his eyes bright behind his glasses. I would have gone 
with him anywhere; I would do it over again right now, 
knowing what was going to happen. He would not have to 
ask me now any more than he did then. So I got on top of the 
tent and we didn't go toward town, we went the other way. 
I asked where we were going but he just said wait, rushing 
the little car along like he couldn't get there quick enough 
himself, and I could tell from his voice that this was fine, this 
was the best yet, better than anybody else could have thought 
about doing, and old Job hunched down in the front seat, 
holding on with both hands and yelling at Uncle Willy about 
going so fast. Yes. Maybe i knew from old Job even then 
that Uncle Willy may have escaped Jefferson but he had 
just dodged it; he hadn't gotten away. 

Then we came to the sign, the arrow that said Airport, and 
we turned and I said: "What? What is it?" but Uncle Willy 
just said: "Wait; just wait," like he couldn't hardly wait 
himself, hunched over the wheel with his white hair blow- 
ing under his cap and his collar riding up behind so you 
could see his neck between the collar and the shirt; and old 
Job saying (Oh yes, I could tell even then): "He got hit, all 
right. He done done hit. But I done tole him. Nemmine. 
I done warned him." Then we came to the airport and Uncle 
Willy stopped quick and pointed up without even getting 
out and said, "Look." 

It was an airplane flying around and Uncle Willy running 

Uncle Willy 241 

up and down the edge of the field waving his handkerchief 
until it saw him and came down and landed and rolled up to 
us, a little airplane with a two-cylinder engine. It was Secre- 
tary, in another new checked cap and goggles like Uncle 
Willy's and they told me how Uncle Willy had bought one 
for old Job too but old Job wouldn't wear it. And that night 
we stayed in a little tourist camp about two miles away and 
he had a cap and goggles all ready for me too; and then I 
knew why they hadn't been able to find him Uncle Willy 
told me how he had bought the airplane with some of the 
money he had sold his house for after his sister saved it 
because she had been born in it too, but that Captain Bean 
at the airport wouldn't teach him to run it himself because 
he would need a permit from a doctor ("By God," Uncle 
Willy said, "damn if these Republicans and Democrats and 
XYZ's ain't going to have it soon where a man can't even 
flush the toilet in his own bathroom.") and he couldn't go 
to the doctor because the doctor might want to send him 
back to the Keeley or tell Mrs. Merridew where he was. So 
he just let Secretary learn to run it first and now Secretary 
had been running it for two weeks, which was almost four- 
teen days longer than he had practiced on the car before 
they started out with it. So Uncle Willy bought the car and 
tent and camping outfit yesterday and tomorrow we were 
going to start. We would go first to a place named Renfro 
where nobody knew us and where there was a big pasture 
that Uncle Willy had found out about and we would stay 
there a week while Secretary taught Uncle Willy to run the 
airplane. Then we would head west. When we ran out of 
the house money we would stop at a town and take up pas- 
sengers and make enough to buy gasoline and food to get 
to the next town, Uncle Willy and Secretary in the airplane 
and me and old Job in the car; and old Job sitting in a chair 
against the wall, blinking at Uncle Willy with his little weak 

242 The Village 

red sullen eyes, and Uncle Willy reared up on the cot with 
his cap and goggles still on and his collar without any tie (it 
wasn't fastened to his shirt at all: just buttoned around his 
neck) sometimes sideways and sometimes even backward 
like an Episcopal minister's, and his eyes bright behind his 
glasses and his voice bright and fine. "And by Christmas we 
will be in California!" he said. "Think of that. Calif ornia!" 


So HOW could they say that I had to be tolled away? How 
could they? I suppose I knew then that it wouldn't work, 
couldn't work, that it was too fine to be true. I reckon I even 
knew how it was going to end just from the glum way Secre- 
tary acted whenever Uncle Willy talked about learning to 
run the airplane himself, just as I knew from the way old Job 
looked at Uncle Willy, not what he did of course, but what 
he would do if the occasion arose. Because I was the other 
white one. I was white, even if old Job and Secretary were 
both older than me, so it would be all right; I could do it all 
right. It was like I knew even then that, no matter what 
might happen to him, he wouldn't ever die and I thought 
that if I could just learn to live like he lived, no matter what 
might happen to me I wouldn't ever die either. 

So we left the next morning, just after daylight because 
there was another fool rule that Secretary would have to 
stay in sight of the field until they gave him a license to go 
away. We filled the airplane with gas and Secretary went 
up in it just like he was going up to practice. Then Uncle 
Willy got us into the car quick because he said the airplane 
could make sixty miles an hour and so Secretary would be 
at Renfro a long while before we got there. But when we 
got to Renfro Secretary wasn't there and we put the tent up 
and ate dinner and he still didn't come and Uncle Willy 

Uncle Willy 243 

beginning to cuss and we ate supper and dark came but Sec- 
retary didn't and Uncle Willy was cussing good now. He 
didn't come until the next day. We heard him and ran out 
and watched him fly right over us, coming from the opposite 
direction of Memphis, going fast and us all hollering and 
waving. But he went on, with Uncle Willy jumping up and 
down and cussing, and we were loading the tent into the car 
to try to catch him when he came back. We didn't hear him 
at all now and we could see the propeller because it wasn't 
running and it looked like Secretary wasn't even going to 
light in the pasture but he was going to light in some trees 
on the edge of it. But he skinned by them and kind of 
bumped down and we ran up and found him still sitting in 
the airplane with his eyes closed and his face the color of 
wood ashes and he said, "Captin, will you please tell me 

where to find Ren " before he even opened his eyes to 

see who we were. He said he had landed seven times yester- 
day and it wouldn't be Renfro and they would tell him how 
to get to Renfro and he would go there and that wouldn't 
be Renfro either and he had slept in the airplane last night 
and he hadn't eaten since we left Memphis because he had 
spent the three dollars Uncle Willy gave him for gasoline and 
if he hadn't run out of gas when he did he wouldn't never 
have found us. 

Uncle Willy wanted me to go to town and get some more 
gas so he could start learning to run it right away but Secre- 
tary wouldn't. He just refused. He said the airplane belonged 
to Uncle Willy and he reckoned he belonged to Uncle Willy 
too, leastways until he got back home, but that he had flown 
all he could stand for a while. So Uncle Willy started the 
next morning. 

I thought for a while that I would have to throw old Job 
down and hold him and him hollering, "Don't you git in dat 
thing!" and still hollering, "I ghy tell um! I ghy tell urn!" 

244 The Village 

while we watched the airplane with Secretary and Uncle 
Willy in it kind of jump into the air and then duck down 
like Uncle Willy was trying to take the short cut to China 
and then duck up again and get to going pretty straight at 
last and fly around the pasture and then turn down to land, 
and every day old Job hollering at Uncle Willy and field 
hands coming up out of the fields and folks in wagons and 
walking stopping in the road to watch them and the airplane 
coming down, passing us with Uncle Willy and Secretary 
side by side and looking exactly alike, I don't mean in the 
face but exactly alike like two tines of a garden fork look 
exactly like just before they chop into the ground; we could 
see Secretary's eyes and his mouth run out so you could 
almost hear him saying, "Hooooooooo!" and Uncle Willy's 
glasses shining and his hair blowing from under his cap and 
his celluloid collar that he washed every night before he 
went to bed and no tie in it and they would go by, fast, and 
old Job hollering, "You git outer dar! You git outer dat 
thing!" and we could hear Secretary too: "Turn hit loose, 
Unker Willy! Turn hit loosel " and the airplane would go on, 
ducking up one second and down the next and with one wing 
higher than the other one second and lower die next and 
then it would be traveling sideways and maybe it would hit 
the ground sideways the first time, with a kind of crashing 
sound and the dust spurting up and then bounce off again 
and Secretary hollering, "Unker Willy! Turn loose!" and at 
night in the tent Uncle Willy's eyes would still be shining 
and he would be too excited to stop talking and go to sleep 
and I don't believe he even remembered that he had not 
taken a drink since he first thought about buying the air- 

Oh yes, I know what they said about me after it was all 
over, what Papa said when he and Mrs. Merridew got there 
that morning, about me being the white one, almost a man, 

Uncle Willy 245 

and Secretary and old Job just irresponsible niggers, yet it 
was old Job and Secretary who tried to prevent him. Because 
that was it; that was what they couldn't understand. 

I remember the last night and Secretary and old Job both 
working on him, when old Job finally made Secretary tell 
Uncle Willy that he would never learn to fly, and Uncle 
Willy stopped talking and stood up and looked at Secretary. 
"Didn't you learn to run it in two weeks?" he said. Secretary 
said yes. "You, a damn, trifling, worthless, ignorant, burr- 
headed nigger?" and Secretary said yes. "And me that grad- 
uated from a university and ran a fifteen-thousand-dollar 
business for forty years, yet you tell me I can't learn to run 
a damn little fifteen-hundred-dollar airplane?" Then he 
looked at me. "Don't you believe I can run it?" he said. And 
I looked at him and I said, "Yes. I believe you can do any- 


AND NOW I can't tell them. I can't say it. Papa told me once 
that somebody said that if you know it you can say it. Or 
maybe the man that said that didn't count fourteen-year-old 
boys. Because I must have known it was going to happen. 
And Uncle Willy must have known it too, known that the 
moment would come. It was like we both had known it and 
we didn't even have to compare notes, tell one another that 
we did: he not needing to say that day in Memphis, "Come 
with me so you will be there when I will need you," and me 
not needing to say, "Let me come so I can be there when 
you will." 

Because old Job telephoned Mrs. Merridew. He waited 
until we were asleep and slipped out and walked all the way 
to town and telephoned her; he didn't have any money and 
he probably never telephoned in his life before, yet he tele- 

246 The Village 

phoned her and the next morning he came up running in the 
dew (the town, the telephone, was five miles away) just as 
Secretary was getting the engine started and I knew what he 
had done even before he got close enough to holler, running 
and stumbling along slow across the pasture, hollering, "Holt 
um! Holt um! Dey'll be here any minute! Jest holt um ten 
minutes en dey'll be here," and I knew and I ran and met him 
and now I did hold him and him fighting and hitting at me 
and still hollering at Uncle Willy in the airplane. "You tele- 
phoned?" I said. "Her? Her? Told her where he is?" 

"Yes," Uncle Job hollered. "En she say she gonter git yo 
pappy and start right away and be here by six o'clock," and 
me holding him; he felt like a handful of scrawny dried sticks 
and I could hear his lungs wheezing and I could feel his heart, 
and Secretary came up running too and old Job begun to 
holler at Secretary, "Git him outer dar! Dey comin! Dey be 
here any minute if you can jest holt um!" and Secretary 
saying, "Which? Which?" and old Job hollered at him to 
run and hold the airplane and Secretary turned and I tried to 
grab his leg but I couldn't and I could see Uncle Willy look- 
ing toward us and Secretary running toward the airplane 
and I got onto my knees and waved and I was hollering too. 
I don't reckon Uncle Willy could hear me for the engine. 
But I tell you he didn't need to, because we knew, we both 
knew; and so I knelt there and held old Job on the ground 
and we saw the airplane start, with Secretary still running 
after it, and jump into the air and duck down and then jump 
up again and then it looked like it had stopped high in the 
air above the trees where we thought Secretary was fixing to 
land that first day before it ducked down beyond them and 
went out of sight and Secretary was already running and so 
it was only me and Uncle Job that had to get up and start. 

Oh, yes, I know what they said about me; I knew it all that 
afternoon while we were going home with the hearse in front 

Uncle Willy 247 

and Secretary and old Job in the Ford next and Papa and me 
in our car coming last and Jefferson getting nearer and 
nearer; and then all of a sudden I began to cry. Because the 
dying wasn't anything, it just touched the outside of you 
that you wore around with you for comfort and convenience 
like you do your clothes: it was because the old garments, 
the clothes that were not worth anything had betrayed one 
of the two of us and the one betrayed was me, and Papa with 
his other arm around my shoulders now, saying, "Now, 
now; I didn't mean that. You didn't do it. Nobody blames 

You see? That was it. I did help Uncle Willy. He knows 
I did. He knows he couldn't have done it without me. He 
knows I did; we didn't even have to look at one another 
when he went. That's it. 

And now they will never understand, not even Papa, and 
there is only me to try to tell them and how can I ever tell 
them, and make them understand? How can I? 

Mule in the Yard 

IT WAS a gray day in late January, though not cold because 
of the fog. Old Het, just walked in from the poorhouse, ran 
down the hall toward the kitchen, shouting in a strong, 
bright, happy voice. She was about seventy probably, though 
by her own counting, calculated from the ages of various 
housewives in the town from brides to grandmothers whom 
she claimed to have nursed in infancy, she would have to be 
around a hundred and at least triplets. Tall, lean, fog-beaded, 
in tennis shoes and a long rat-colored cloak trimmed with 
what forty or fifty years ago had been fur, a modish though 
not new purple toque set upon her headrag and carrying 
(time was when she made her weekly rounds from kitchen 
to kitchen carrying a brocaded carpetbag though since the 
advent of the ten-cent stores the carpetbag became an endless 
succession of the convenient paper receptacles with which 
they supply their customers for a few cents) the shopping- 
bag, she ran into the kitchen and shouted with strong and 
childlike pleasure: "Miss Mannie! Mule in de yard!" 

Mrs. Hait, stooping to the stove, in the act of drawing 
from it a scuttle of live ashes, jerked upright; clutching the 
scuttle, she glared at old Het, then she too spoke at once, 
strong too, immediate. "Them sons of bitches," she said. She 
left the kitchen, not running exactly, yet with a kind of out- 
raged celerity, carrying the scuttle a compact woman of 


250 The Village 

forty-odd, with an air of indomitable yet relieved bereave- 
ment, as though that which had relicted her had been a 
woman and a not particularly valuable one at that. She wore 
a calico wrapper and a sweater coat, and a man's felt hat 
which they in the town knew had belonged to her ten years' 
dead husband. But the man's shoes had not belonged to him. 
They were high shoes which buttoned, with toes like small 
tulip bulbs, and in the town they knew that she had bought 
them new for herself. She and old Het ran down the kitchen 
steps and into the fog. That's why it was not cold: as though 
there lay supine and prisoned between earth and mist the long 
winter night's suspiration of the sleeping town in dark, close 
rooms the slumber and the rousing; the stale waking ther- 
mostatic, by re-heating heat-engendered: it lay like a scum of 
cold grease upon the steps and the wooden entrance to the 
basement and upon the narrow plank walk which led to a 
shed building in the corner of the yard: upon these planks, 
running and still carrying the scuttle of live ashes, Mrs. Hait 
skated viciously. 

"Watch out! " old Het, footed securely by her rubber soles, 
cried happily. "Dey in de front!" Mrs. Hait did not fall. She 
did not even pause. She took in the immediate scene with 
one cold glare and was running again when there appeared at 
the corner of the house and apparently having been born 
before their eyes of the fog itself, a mule. It looked taller 
than a giraffe. Longheaded, with a flying halter about its 
scissorlike ears, it rushed down upon them with violent and 
apparitionlike suddenness. 

"Dar hit!" old Het cried, waving the shopping-bag. 
"Hoo!" Mrs. Hait whirled. Again she skidded savagely on 
the greasy planks as she and the mule rushed parallel with 
one another toward the shed building, from whose open 
doorway there now projected the static and astonished face 
of a cow. To the cow the fog-born mule doubtless looked 

Mule in the Yard 251 

taller and more incredibly sudden than a giraffe even, and 
apparently bent upon charging right through the shed as 
though it were made of straw or were purely and simply 
mirage. The cow's head likewise had a quality transient and 
abrupt and unmundane. It vanished, sucked into invisibility 
like a match flame, though the mind knew and the reason 
insisted that she had withdrawn into the shed, from which, 
as proof's burden, there came an indescribable sound of 
shock and alarm by shed and beast engendered, analogous to 
a single note from a profoundly struck lyre or harp. Toward 
this sound Mrs. Hait sprang, immediately, as if by pure reflex, 
as though in invulnerable compact of female with female 
against a world of mule and man. She and the mule con- 
verged upon the shed at top speed, the heavy scuttle poised 
lightly in her hand to hurl. Of course it did not take this 
long, and likewise it was the mule which refused the gambit. 
Old Het was still shouting "Dar hit! Dar hit!" when it 
swerved and rushed at her where she stood tall as a stove 
pipe, holding the shopping-bag which she swung at the beast 
as it rushed past her and vanished beyond the other corner 
of the house as though sucked back into the fog which had 
produced it, profound and instantaneous and without any 

With that unhasteful celerity Mrs. Hait turned and set 
the scuttle down on the brick coping of the cellar entrance 
and she and old Het turned the corner of the house in time to 
see the now wraithlike mule at the moment when its course 
converged with that of a choleric-looking rooster and eight 
Rhode Island Red hens emerging from beneath the house. 
Then for an instant its progress assumed the appearance and 
trappings of an apotheosis: hell-born and hell-returning, in 
the act of dissolving completely into the fog, it seemed to rise 
vanishing into a sunless and dimensionless medium borne 
upon and enclosed by small winged goblins. 

252 The Village 

"Dey's mo in de front!" old Het cried. 

"Them sons of bitches," Mrs. Hait said, again in that grim, 
prescient voice without rancor or heat. It was not the mules 
to which she referred; it was not even the owner of them. It 
was her whole town-dwelling history as dated from that 
April dawn ten years ago when what was left of Hait had 
been gathered from the mangled remains of five mules and 
several feet of new Manila rope on a blind curve of the rail- 
road just out of town; the geographical hap of her very 
home; the very components of her bereavement the mules, 
the defunct husband, and the owner of them. His name was 
Snopes; in the town they knew about him too how he 
bought his stock at the Memphis market and brought it to 
Jefferson and sold it to farmers and widows and orphans 
black and white, for whatever he could contrive down to a 
certain figure; and about how (usually in the dead season of 
winter) teams and even small droves of his stock would es- 
cape from the fenced pasture where he kept them and, tied 
one to another with sometimes quite new hemp rope (and 
which item Snopes included in the subsequent claim), would 
be annihilated by freight trains on the same blind curve 
which was to be the scene of Halt's exit from this world; 
once a town wag sent him through the mail a printed train 
schedule for the division. A squat, pasty man perennially tie- 
less and with a strained, harried expression, at stated intervals 
he passed athwart the peaceful and somnolent life of the 
town in dust and uproar, his advent heralded by shouts and 
cries, his passing marked by a yellow cloud filled with toss- 
ing jug-shaped heads and clattering hooves and the same for- 
lorn and earnest cries of the drovers; and last of all and well 
back out of the dust, Snopes himself moving at a harried and 
panting trot, since it was said in the town that he was deathly 
afraid of the very beasts in which he cleverly dealt. 

The path which he must follow from the railroad station 

Mule in the Yard 253 

to his pasture crossed the edge of town near Halt's home; 
Hait and Mrs. Hait had not been in the house a week before 
they waked one morning to find it surrounded by galloping 
mules and the air filled with the shouts and cries of the dro- 
vers. But it was not until that April dawn some years later, 
when those who reached the scene first found what might be 
termed foreign matter among the mangled mules and the 
savage fragments of new rope, that the town suspected that 
Hait stood in any closer relationship to Snopes and the mules 
than that- of helping at periodical intervals to drive them out 
of his front yard. After that they believed that they knew; in 
a three days' recess of interest, surprise, and curiosity they 
watched to see if Snopes would try to collect on Hait also. 

But they learned only that the adjuster appeared and called 
upon Mrs. Hait and that a few days later she cashed a check 
for eight thousand five hundred dollars, since this was back 
in the old halcyon days when even the companies considered 
their southern branches and divisions the legitimate prey of 
all who dwelt beside them. She took the cash: she stood in 
her sweater coat and the hat which Hait had been wearing 
on the fatal morning a week ago and listened in cold, grim 
silence while the teller counted the money and the president 
and the cashier tried to explain to her the virtues of a bond, 
then of a savings account, then of a checking account, and 
departed with the money in a salt sack under her apron; after 
a time she painted her house: that serviceable and time-defy- 
ing color which the railroad station was painted, as though 
out of sentiment or (as some said) gratitude. 

The adjuster also summoned Snopes into conference, from 
which he emerged not only more harried-looking than ever, 
but with his face stamped with a bewildered dismay which it 
was to wear from then on, and that was the last time his pas- 
ture fence was ever to give inexplicably away at dead of 
night upon mules coupled in threes and fours by adeauate 

254 The Village 

rope even though not always new. And then it seemed as 
though the mules themselves knew this, as if, even while hal- 
tered at the Memphis block at his bid, they sensed it somehow 
as they sensed that he was afraid of them. Now, three or four 
times a year and as though by fiendish concord and as soon 
as they were freed of the box car, the entire uproar the dust 
cloud filled with shouts earnest, harried, and dismayed, with 
plunging demoniac shapes would become translated in a 
single burst of perverse and uncontrollable violence, without 
any intervening contact with time, space, or earth, across 
the peaceful and astonished town and into Mrs. Hait's yard, 
where, in a certain hapless despair which abrogated for the 
moment even physical fear, Snopes ducked and dodged 
among the thundering shapes about the house (for whose 
very impervious paint the town believed that he felt he had 
paid and whose inmate lived within it a life of idle and queen- 
like ease on money which he considered at least partly his 
own) while gradually that section and neighborhood gath- 
ered to look on from behind adjacent window curtains and 
porches screened and not, and from the sidewalks and even 
from halted wagons and cars in the street housewives in the 
wrappers and boudoir caps of morning, children on the way 
to school, casual Negroes and casual whites in static and en- 
tertained repose. 

They were all there when, followed by old Het and carry- 
ing the stub of a worn-out broom, Mrs. Hait ran around the 
next corner and onto the handkerchief-sized plot of earth 
which she called her front yard. It was small; any creature 
with a running stride of three feet could have spanned it in 
two paces, yet at the moment, due perhaps to the myopic 
and distortive quality of the fog, it seemed to be as incredibly 
full of mad life as a drop of water beneath the microscope. 
Yet again she did not falter. With the broom clutched in her 
hand and apparently with a kind of sublime faith in her own 

Mule in the Yard 255 

invulnerability, she rushed on after the haltered mule which 
was still in that arrested and wraithlike process of vanishing 
furiously into the fog, its wake indicated by the tossing and 
dispersing shapes of the nine chickens like so many jagged 
scraps of paper in the dying air blast of an automobile, and 
the madly dodging figure of a man. The man was Snopes; 
beaded too with moisture, his wild face gaped with hoarse 
shouting and the two heavy lines of shaven beard descending 
from the corners of it as though in alluvial retrospect of years 
of tobacco, he screamed at her: "Fore God, Miz Haiti I done 
everything I could!" She didn't even look at him. 

"Ketch that big un with the bridle on," she said in her cold, 
panting voice. "Git that big un outen here." 

"Sho!" Snopes shrieked. "Jest let urn take their time. Jest 
don't git um excited now." 

"Watch out!" old Het shouted. "He headin fer de back 

"Git the rope," Mrs. Halt said, running again. Snopes 
glared back at old Het. 

"Fore God, where is ere rope?" he shouted. 

"In de cellar fo God!" old Het shouted, also without paus- 
ing. "Go roun de udder way en head um." Again she and 
Mrs. Halt turned the corner in time to see again the still-van- 
ishing mule with the halter once more in the act of floating 
lightly onward in its cloud of chickens with which, they 
being able to pass under the house and so on the chord of a 
circle while it had to go around on the arc, it had once more 
coincided. When they turned the next corner they were in 
the back yard again. 

"Fo God!" old Het cried. "He fixin to misuse de cow!" 
For they had gained on the mule now, since it had stopped. 
In fact, they came around the corner on a tableau. The cow 
now stood in the centre of the yard. She and the mule faced 
one another a few feet apart. Motionless, with lowered heads 

256 The Village 

and braced forelegs, they looked like two book ends from 
two distinct pairs of a general pattern which some one of 
amateurly bucolic leanings might have purchased, and which 
some child had salvaged, brought into idle juxtaposition and 
then forgotten; and, his head and shoulders projecting above 
the back-flung slant of the cellar entrance where the scuttle 
still sat, Snopes standing as though buried to the armpits for 
a Spanish-Indian-American suttee. Only again it did not take 
this long. It was less than tableau; it was one of those things 
which later even memory cannot quite affirm. Now and in 
turn, man and cow and mule vanished beyond the next cor- 
ner, Snopes now in the lead, carrying the rope, the cow next 
with her tail rigid and raked slightly like the stern staff of a 
boat. Mrs. Hait and old Het ran on, passing the open cellar 
gaping upon its accumulation of human necessities and wid- 
owed womanyears boxes for kindling wood, old papers and 
magazines, the broken and outworn furniture and utensils 
which no woman ever throws away; a pile of coal and an- 
other of pitch pine for priming fires and ran on and turned 
the next corner to see man and cow and mule all vanishing 
now in the wild cloud of ubiquitous chickens which had once 
more crossed beneath the house and emerged. They ran on, 
Mrs. Hait in grim and unflagging silence, old Het with the 
eager and happy amazement of a child. But when they gained 
the front again they saw only Snopes. He lay flat on his 
stomach, his head and shoulders upreared by his outstretched 
arms, his coat tail swept forward by its own arrested momen- 
tum about his head so that from beneath it his slack-jawed 
face mused in wild repose like that of a burlesqued nun. 

"Whar'd dey go?" old Het shouted at him. He didn't 

u Dey tightenin' on de curves!" she cried. "Dey already in 
de back again!" That's where they were. The cow made a 
feint at running into her shed, but deciding perhaps that her 

Mule in the Yard 257 

speed was too great, she whirled in a final desperation of 
despair-like valor. But they did not see this, nor see the mule, 
swerving to pass her, crash and blunder for an instant at the 
open cellar door before going on. When they arrived, the 
mule was gone. The scuttle was gone too, but they did not 
notice it; they saw only the cow standing in the centre of the 
yard as before, panting, rigid, with braced forelegs and low- 
ered head facing nothing, as if the child had returned and re- 
moved one of the book ends for some newer purpose or 
game. They ran on. Mrs. Hait ran heavily now, her mouth 
too open, her face putty-colored and one hand pressed to her 
side. So slow was their progress that the mule in its third 
circuit of the house overtook them from behind and soared 
past with undiminished speed, with brief demon thunder and 
a keen ammonia-sweet reek of sweat sudden and sharp as a 
jeering cry, and was gone. Yet they ran doggedly on around 
the next corner in time to see it succeed at last in vanishing 
into the fog; they heard its hoofs, brief, staccato, and derisive, 
on the paved street, dying away. 

"Well!" old Het said, stopping. She panted, happily. 
"Gentlemen, hush! Ain't we had " Then she became stone 
still; slowly her head turned, high-nosed, her nostrils pulsing; 
perhaps for the instant she saw the open cellar door as they 
had last passed it, with no scuttle beside it. "Fo God I smells 
smoke!" she said. "Chile, run, git yo money." 

That was still early, not yet ten o'clock. By noon the 
house had burned to the ground. There was a farmers' sup- 
ply store where Snopes could be usually found; more than 
one had made a point of finding him there by that time. They 
told him about how when the fire engine and the crowd 
reached the scene, Mrs. Hait, followed by old Het carrying 
her shopping-bag in one hand and a framed portrait of Mr. 
Hait in the other, emerged with an umbrella and wearing a 
new, dun-colored, mail-order coat, in one pocket of which 

258 The Villag* 

lay a fruit jar filled with smoothly rolled banknotes and in the 
other a heavy, nickel-plated pistol, and crossed the street to 
the house opposite, where with old Het beside her in another 
rocker, she had been sitting ever since on the veranda, grim, 
inscrutable, the two of them rocking steadily, while hoarse 
and tireless men hurled her dishes and furniture and bedding 
up and down the street. 

"What are you telling me for?" Snopes said. "Hit warn't 
me that set that ere scuttle of live fire where the first thing 
that passed would knock hit into the cellar." 

"It was you that opened the cellar door, though." 

"Sho. And for what? To git that rope, her own rope, 
where she told me to git it." 

"To catch your mule with, that was trespassing on her 
property. You can't get out of it this time, I. O. There ain't 
a jury in the county that won't find for her." 

"Yes. I reckon not. And just because she is a woman. 
That's why. Because she is a durn woman. All right. Let her 
go to her durn jury with hit. I can talk too; I reckon hit's a 
few things I could tell a jury myself about " He ceased. 
They were watching him. 

"What? Tell a jury about what?" 

"Nothing. Because hit ain't going to no jury. A jury be- 
tween her and me? Me and Mannie Hait? You boys don't 
know her if you think she's going to make trouble over a 
pure acci-dent couldn't nobody help. Why, there ain't a 
fairer, finer woman in the county than Miz Mannie Hait. I 
just wisht I had a opportunity to tell her so." The opportu- 
nity came at once. Old Het was behind her, carrying the 
shopping-bag. Mrs. Hait looked once, quietly, about at the 
faces, making no response to the murmur of curious saluta- 
tion, then not again. She didn't look at Snopes long either, 
nor talk to him long. 

"I come to buy that mule," she said. 

Mule in the Yard 259 

"What mule?" They looked at one another. "You'd like 
to own that mule?" She looked at him. "Hit'll cost you a 
hundred and fifty, Miz Mannie." 

"You mean dollars?" 

"I don't mean dimes nor nickels neither, Miz Mannie." 

"Dollars," she said. "That's more than mules was in Halt's 


"Lots of things is different since Halt's time. Including 
you and me." 

"I reckon so," she said. Then she went away. She turned 
without a word, old Het following. 

"Maybe one of them others you looked at this morning 
would suit you," Snopes said. She didn't answer. Then they 
were gone. 

"I don't know as I would have said that last to her," one 

"What for?" Snopes said. "If she was aiming to law some- 
thing outen me about that fire, you reckon she would have 
come and offered to pay me money for hit?" That was about 
one o'clock. About four o'clock he was shouldering his way 
through a throng of Negroes before a cheap grocery store 
when one called his name. It was old Het, the now bulging 
shopping-bag on her arm, eating bananas from a paper sack. 

"Fo God I wuz jest dis minute huntin fer you," she said. 
She handed the banana to a woman beside her and delved and 
fumbled in the shopping-bag and extended a greenback. 
"Miz Mannie gimme dis to give you; I wuz jest on de way 
to de sto whar you stay at. Here." He took the bill. 

"What's this? From Miz Hait?" 

"Fer de mule." The bill was for ten dollars. "You don't 
need to gimme no receipt. I kin be de witness I give hit to 

"Ten dollars? For that mule? I told her a hundred and 
fifty dollars." 

260 The Village 

"You'll have to fix dat up wid her yo'self. She jest gimme 
dis to give ter you when she sot out to fetch de mule." 

"Set out to fetch She went out there herself and taken 
my mule outen my pasture?" 

"Lawd, chile," old Het said, "Miz Mannie ain't skeered of 
no mule. Ain't you done foun dat out?" 

And then it became late, what with the yet short winter 
days; when she came in sight of the two gaunt chimneys 
against the sunset, evening was already finding itself. But she 
could smell the ham cooking before she came in sight of the 
cow shed even, though she could not see it until she came 
around in front where the fire burned beneath an iron skillet 
set on bricks and where nearby Mrs. Hait was milking the 
cow. "Well," old Het said, "you is settled down, ain't you?" 
She looked into the shed, neated and raked and swept even, 
and floored now with fresh hay. A clean new lantern burned 
on a box, beside it a pallet bed was spread neatly on the straw 
and turned neatly back for the night. "Why, you is fixed 
up," she said with pleased astonishment. Within the door was 
a kitchen chair. She drew it out and sat down beside the 
skillet and laid the bulging shopping-bag beside her. 

"I'll tend dis meat whilst you milks. I'd offer to strip dat 
cow fer you ef I wuzn't so wo out wid all dis excitement we 
been had." She looked around her. "I don't believe I sees yo 
new mule, dough." Mrs. Hait grunted, her head against the 
cow's flank. After a moment she said, 

"Did you give him that money?" 

"I give um ter him. He ack surprise at first, lak maybe he 
think you didn't aim to trade dat quick. I tole him to settle de 
details wid you later. He taken de money, dough. So I reckin 
dat's offen his mine en yo'n bofe." Again Mrs. Hait grunted. 
Old Het turned the ham in the skillet. Beside it the coffee pot 
bubbled and steamed. "Cawfee smell good too," she said. "I 
ain't had no appetite in years now. A bird couldn't live on de 
vittles I eats. But jest lemme git a whiff er cawfee en seem lak 

Mule in the Yard 261 

hit always whets me a little. Now, ef you jest had nudder 
little piece o dis ham, now Fo God, you got company 
aready." But Mrs. Hait did not even look up until she had 
finished. Then she turned without rising from the box on 
which she sat. 

"I reckon you and me better have a little talk," Snopes said. 
"I reckon I got something that belongs to you and I hear you 
got something that belongs to me." He looked about, quickly, 
ceaselessly, while old Het watched him. He turned to her. 
"You go away, aunty. I don't reckon you want to set here 
and listen to us." 

u Lawd, honey," old Het said. "Don't you mind me. I done 
already had so much troubles myself dat I kin set en listen 
to udder folks' widout hit worryin me a-tall. You gawn talk 
whut you came ter talk; I jest set here en tend de ham." 
Snopes looked at Mrs. Hait. 

"Ain't you going to make her go away?" he said. 

"What for?" Mrs. Hait said. "I reckon she ain't the first 
critter that ever come on this yard when hit wanted and 
went or stayed when hit liked." Snopes made a gesture, brief, 
fretted, restrained. 

"Well," he said. "All right. So you taken the mule." 

"I paid you for it. She give you the money." 

"Ten dollars. For a hundred-and-fifty-dollar mule. Ten 

"I don't know anything about hundred-and-fifty-dollar 
mules. All I know is what the railroad paid." Now Snopes 
looked at her for a full moment. 

"What do you mean?" 

"Them sixty dollars a head the railroad used to pay you for 
mules back when you and Hait " 

"Hush," Snopes said; he looked about again, quick, cease- 
less. "All right. Even call it sixty dollars. But you just sent 
me ten." 

"Yes. I sent you the difference." He looked at her, per- 

262 The Village 

fectly still. "Between that mule and what you owed Halt." 

"What I owed " 

"For getting them five mules onto the tr " 

"Hush!" he cried. "Hush!" Her voice went on, cold, grim, 

"For helping you. You paid him fifty dollars each time, 
and the railroad paid you sixty dollars a head for the mules. 
Ain't that right?" He watched her. "The last time you never 
paid him. So I taken that mule instead. And I sent you the ten 
dollars difference." 

"Yes," he said in a tone of quiet, swift, profound bemuse- 
ment; then he cried: "But look! Here's where I got you. Hit 
was our agreement that I wouldn't never owe him nothing 
until after the mules was " 

"I reckon you better hush yourself," Mrs. Halt said. 

" until hit was over. And this time, when over had come, 
I never owed nobody no money because the man hit would 
have been owed to wasn't nobody," he cried triumphantly. 
"You see?" Sitting on the box, motionless, downlooking, Mrs, 
Hait seemed to muse. "So you just take your ten dollars back 
and tell me where my mule is and we'll just go back good 
friends to where we started at. Fore God, I'm as sorry as ere 
a living man about that fire " 

"Fo God!" old Het said, "hit was a blaze, wuzn't it?" 

" but likely with all that ere railroad money you still got, 
you just been wanting a chance to build new, all along. So 
here. Take hit." He put the money into her hand. "Where's 
my mule?" But Mrs. Hait didn't move at once. 

"You want to give it back to me?" she said. 

"Sho. We been friends all the time; now we'll just go back 
to where we left off being. I don't hold no hard feelings and 
don't you hold none. Where you got the mule hid?" 

"Up at the end of that ravine ditch behind Spilmer's," 
she said. 

Mule in the Yard 263 

"Sho. I know. A good, sheltered place, since you ain't got 
nere barn. Only if you'd a just left hit in the pasture, hit 
would a saved us both trouble. But hit ain't no hard feelings 
though. And so I'll bid you goodnight. You're all fixed up, 
I see. I reckon you could save some more money by not 
building no house a-tall." 

"I reckon I could," Mrs. Hait said. But he was gone. 

"Whut did you leave de mule dar fer?" old Het said. 

"I reckon that's far enough," Mrs. Hait said. 

"Fer enough?" But Mrs. Hait came and looked into the 
skillet, and old Het said, "Wuz hit me er you dat mentioned 
something erbout er nudder piece o dis ham?" So they were 
both eating when in the not-quite-yet accomplished twilight 
Snopes returned. He came up quietly and stood, holding his 
hands to the blaze as if he were quite cold. He did not look 
at any one now. 

"I reckon I'll take that ere ten dollars," he said. 

"What ten dollars?" Mrs. Hait said. He seemed to muse 
upon the fire. Mrs. Hait and old Het chewed quietly, old Het 
alone watching him. 

"You ain't going to give hit back to me?" he said. 

"You was the one that said to let's go back to where we 
started," Mrs. Hait said. 

"Fo God you wuz, en dat's de fack," old Het said. Snopes 
mused upon the fire; he spoke in a tone of musing and amazed 

"I go to the worry and the risk and the agoment for years 
and years and I get sixty dollars. And you, one time, without 
no trouble and no risk, without even knowing you are going 
to git it, git eighty-five hundred dollars. I never begrudged 
hit to you; can't nere a man say I did, even if hit did seem a 
little strange that you should git it all when he wasn't work- 
ing for you and you never even knowed where he was at and 
what doing; that all you done to git it was to be married to 

264 The Village 

him. And now, after all these ten years of not begrudging 
you hit, you taken the best mule I had and you ain't even 
going to pay me ten dollars for hit. Hit ain't right. Hit ain't 

"You got de mule back, en you ain't satisfried yit," old Het 
said. "Whut does you want?" Now Snopes looked at Mrs. 

"For the last time I ask hit," he said. "Will you or won't 
you give hit back?" 

"Give what back?" Mrs. Hait said. Snopes turned. He 
stumbled over something : it was old Het's shopping-bag 
and recovered and went on. They could see him in silhou- 
ette, as though framed by the two blackened chimneys 
against the dying west; they saw him fling up both clenched 
hands in a gesture almost Gallic, of resignation and impotent 
despair. Then he was gone. Old Het was watching Mrs. Hait. 

"Honey," she said. "Whut did you do wid de mule?" Mrs. 
Hait leaned forward to the fire. On her plate lay a stale bis- 
cuit. She lifted the skillet and poured over the biscuit the 
grease in which the ham had cooked. 

"I shot it," she said. 

"You which?" old Het said. Mrs. Hait began to eat the 
biscuit. "Well," old Het said, happily, "de mule burnt de 
house en you shot de mule. Dat's whut I calls justice." It 
was getting dark fast now, and before her was still the three- 
mile walk to the poorhouse. But the dark would last a long 
time in January, and the poorhouse too would not move at 
once. She sighed with weary and happy relaxation. "Gentle- 
men, hush! Ain't we had a day!" 

That Will Be Fine 

WE COULD HEAR the water running into the tub. We looked 
at the presents scattered over the bed where mamma had 
wrapped them in the colored paper, with our names on them 
so Grandpa could tell who they belonged to easy when he 
would take them off the tree. There was a present for every- 
body except Grandpa because mamma said that Grandpa is 
too old to get presents any more. 

"This one is yours," I said. 

"Sho now/' Rosie said. "You come on and get in that 
tub like your mamma tell you." 

"I know what's in it," I said. "I could tell you if I wanted 

Rosie looked at her present. "I reckon I kin wait twell 
hit be handed to me at the right time," she said. 

"I'll tell you what's in it for a nickel," I said. 

Rosie looked at her present. "I ain't got no nickel," she 
said. "But I will have Christmas morning when Mr. Rodney 
give me that dime." 

"You'll know what's in it anyway then and you won't 
pay me," I said. "Go and ask mamma to lend you a nickel." 

Then Rosie grabbed me by the arm. "You come on and 
get in that tub," she said. "You and money! If you ain't 
rich time you twenty-one, hit will be because the law done 
abolished money or done abolished you." 


266 The Village 

So I went and bathed and came back, with the presents all 
scattered out across mamma's and papa's bed and you could 
almost smell it and tomorrow night they would begin to 
shoot the fireworks and then you could hear it too. It 
would be just tonight and then tomorrow we would get 
on the train, except papa, because he would have to stay at 
the livery stable until after Christmas Eve, and go to 
Grandpa's, and then tomorrow night and then it would 
be Christmas and Grandpa would take the presents off the 
tree and call out our names, and the one from me to Uncle 
Rodney that I bought with my own dime and so after a 
while Uncle Rodney would prize open Grandpa's desk 
and take a dose of Grandpa's tonic and maybe he would 
give me another quarter for helping him, like he did last 
Christmas, instead of just a nickel, like he would do last 
summer while he was visiting mamma and us and we were 
doing business with Mrs. Tucker before Uncle Rodney 
went home and began to work for the Compress Association, 
and it would be fine. Or maybe even a half a dollar and it 
seemed to me like I just couldn't wait. 

"Jesus, I can't hardly wait," I said. 

"You which?" Rosie hollered. "Jesus?" she hollered. 
"Jesus? You let your mamma hear you cussing and I bound 
you'll wait. You talk to me about a nickel! For a nickel 
I'd tell her just what you said." 

"If you'll pay me a nickel I'll tell her myself," I said. 

"Get into that bed!" Rosie hollered. "A seven-year-old 
boy, cussing!" 

"If you will promise not to tell her, I'll tell you what's in 
your present and you can pay me the nickel Christmas morn- 
ing," I said. 

"Get in that bed!" Rosie hollered. "You and your nickel! 
I bound if I thought any of you all was fixing to buy even 
a dime present for your grandpa, I'd put in a nickel of hit 

That Will Be Fine 267 

"Grandpa don't want presents," I said. "He's too old." 
"Hah," Rosie said. "Too old, is he? Suppose everybody 
decided you was too young to have nickels: what would you 
think about that? Hah?" 

So Rosie turned out the light and went out. But I 
could still see the presents by the firelight: the ones for Uncle 
Rodney and Grandma and Aunt Louisa and Aunt Louisa's 
husband Uncle Fred, and Cousin Louisa and Cousin Fred 
and the baby and Grandpa's cook and our cook, that was 
Rosie, and maybe somebody ought to give Grandpa a present 
only maybe it ought to be Aunt Louisa because she and 
Uncle Fred lived with Grandpa, or maybe Uncle Rodney 
ought to because he lived with Grandpa too. Uncle Rodney 
always gave mamma and papa a present but maybe it would 
be just a waste of his time and Grandpa's time both for 
Uncle Rodney to give Grandpa a present, because one time 
I asked mamma why Grandpa always looked at the present 
Uncle Rodney gave her and papa and got so mad, and papa 
began to laugh and mamma said papa ought to be ashamed, 
that it wasn't Uncle Rodney's fault if his generosity was 
longer than his pocket book, and papa said Yes, it certainly 
wasn't Uncle Rodney's fault, he never knew a man to try 
harder to get money than Uncle Rodney did, that Uncle 
Rodney had tried every known plan to get it except work, 
and that if mamma would just think back about two years 
she would remember one time when Uncle Rodney could 
have thanked his stars that there was one man in the con- 
nection whose generosity, or whatever mamma wanted to 
call it, was at least five hundred dollars shorter than his 
pocket book, and mamma said she defied papa to say that 
Uncle Rodney stole the money, that it had been malicious 
persecution and papa knew it, and that papa and most other 
men were prejudiced against Uncle Rodney, why she didn't 
know, and that if papa begrudged having lent Uncle Rodney 
the five hundred dollars when the family's good name was 

268 The Village 

at stake to say so and Grandpa would raise it somehow and 
pay papa back, and then she began to cry and papa said 
All right, all right, and mamma cried and said how Uncle 
Rodney was the baby and that must be why papa hated 
him and papa said All right, all right; for God's sake, all 

Because mamma and papa didn't know that Uncle Rodney 
had been handling his business all the time he was visiting 
us last summer, any more than the people in Mottstown 
knew that he was doing business last Christmas when I 
worked for him the first time and he paid me the quarter. 
Because he said that if he preferred to do business with 
ladies instead of men it wasn't anybody's business except his, 
not even Mr. Tucker's. He said how I never went around 
telling people about papa's business and I said how every- 
body knew papa was in the livery-stable business and so I 
didn't have to tell them, and Uncle Rodney said Well, 
that was what half of the nickel was for and did I want to 
keep on making the nickels or did I want him to hire some- 
body else? So I would go on ahead and watch through Mr. 
Tucker's fence until he came out to go to town and I would 
go along behind the fence to the corner and watch until 
Mr. Tucker was out of sight and then I would put my hat 
on top of the fence post and leave it there until I saw Mr. 
Tucker coming back. Only he never came back while I 
was there because Uncle Rodney would always be through 
before then, and he would come up and we would walk 
back home and he would tell mamma how far we had 
walked that day and mamma would say how good that was 
for Uncle Rodney's health. So he just paid me a nickel at 
home. It wasn't as much as the quarter when he was in 
business with the other lady in Mottstown Christmas, but 
that was just one rime and he visited us all summer and so 
by that time I had a lot more than a quarter. And besides 

That Will Be Fine 269 

the other time was Christmas and he took a dose of Grandpa's 
tonic before he paid me the quarter and so maybe this time 
it might be even a half a dollar. I couldn't hardly wait. 


BUT IT GOT TO BE daylight at last and I put on my Sunday 
suit, and I would go to the front door and watch for the 
hack and then I would go to the kitchen and ask Rosie if it 
wasn't almost time and she would tell me the train wasn't 
even due for two hours yet. Only while she was telling me 
we heard the hack, and so I thought it was time for us to 
go and get on the train and it would be fine, and then we 
would go to Grandpa's and then it would be tonight and 
then tomorrow and maybe it would be a half a dollar this 
cime and Jesus it would be fine. Then mamma came running 
out without even her hat on and she said how it was two 
hours yet and she wasn't even dressed and John Paul said 
Yessum but papa sent him and papa said for John Paul to 
tell mamma that Aunt Louisa was here and for mamma to 
hurry. So we put the basket of presents into the hack and 
I rode on the box with John Paul and mamma hollering 
from inside the hack about Aunt Louisa, and John Paul said 
that Aunt Louisa had come in a hired buggy and papa took 
her to the hotel to eat breakfast because she left Mottstown 
before daylight even. And so maybe Aunt Louisa had come 
to Jefferson to help mamma and papa get a present for 

"Because we have one for everybody else," I said, "I 
bought one for Uncle Rodney with my own money." 

Then John Paul began to laugh and I said Why? and he 
said it was at the notion of me giving Uncle Rodney any- 
thing that he would want to use, and I said Why? and 
John Paul said because I was shaped like a man, and I said 

2 yo The Village 

Why? and John Paul said he bet papa would like to give 
Uncle Rodney a present without even waiting for Christmas, 
and I said What? and John Paul said A job of work. And I 
told John Paul how Uncle Rodney had been working all the 
time he was visiting us last summer, and John Paul quit 
laughing and said Sho, he reckoned anything a man kept 
at all the time, night and day both, he would call it work 
no matter how much fun it started out to be, and I said 
Anyway Uncle Rodney works now, he works in the office 
of the Compress Association, and John Paul laughed good 
then and said it would sholy take a whole association to 
compress Uncle Rodney. And then mamma began to holler 
to go straight to the hotel, and John Paul said Nome, papa 
said to come straight to the livery stable and wait for him. 
And so we went to the hotel and Aunt Louisa and papa 
came out and papa helped Aunt Louisa into the hack and 
Aunt Louisa began to cry and mamma hollering Louisa! 
Louisa! What is it? What has happened? and papa saying 
Wait now. Wait. Remember the nigger, and that meant 
John Paul, and so it must have been a present for Grandpa 
and it didn't come. 

And then we didn't go on the train after all. We went to 
the stable and they already had the light road hack hitched 
up and waiting, and mamma was crying now and saying 
how papa never even had his Sunday clothes and papa 
cussing now and saying Damn the clothes; if we didn't get 
to Uncle Rodney before the others caught him, papa would 
just wear the clothes Uncle Rodney had on now. So we got 
into the road hack fast and papa closed the curtains and then 
mamma and Aunt Louisa could cry all right and papa hol- 
lered to John Paul to go home and tell Rosie to pack his 
Sunday suit and take her to the train; anyway that would be 
fine for Rosie. So we didn't go on the train but we went 
fast, with papa driving and saying Didn't anybody know 

That W ill Ee Fine 271 

where he was? and Aunt Louisa quit crying a while and 
said how Uncle Rodney didn't come to supper last night, 
but right after supper he came in and how Aunt Louisa 
had a terrible feeling as soon as she heard his step in the 
hall and how Uncle Rodney wouldn't tell her until they 
were in his room and the door closed and then he said 
he must have two thousand dollars and Aunt Louisa said 
where in the world could she get two thousand dollars? and 
Uncle Rodney said Ask Fred, that was Aunt Louisa's hus- 
band, and George, that was papa; tell them they would 
have to dig it up, and Aunt Louisa said she had that terrible 
feeling and she said Rodney! Rodney! What and Uncle 
Rodney begun to cuss and say Dammit, don't start sniveling 
and crying now, and Aunt Louisa said Rodney, what have 
you done now? and then they both heard the knocking at 
the door and how Aunt Louisa looked at Uncle Rodney and 
she knew the truth before she even laid eyes on Mr. Pruitt 
and the sheriff, and how she said Don't tell pa! Keep it 
from pa! It will kill him. . . . 

"Who?" papa said. "Mister who?" 

"Mr. Pruitt," Aunt Louisa said, crying again. "The 
president of the Compress Association. They moved to 
Mottstown last spring. You don't know him." 

So she went down to the door and it was Mr. Pruitt and 
the sheriff. And how Aunt Louisa begged Mr. Pruitt for 
Grandpa's sake and how she gave Mr. Pruitt her oath that 
Uncle Rodney would stay right there in the house until 
papa could get there, and Mr. Pruitt said how he hated it 
to happen at Christmas too and so for Grandpa's and Aunt 
Louisa's sake he would give them until the day after Christ- 
mas if Aunt Louisa would promise him that Uncle Rodney 
would not try to leave Mottstown. And how Mr. Pruitt 
showed her with her own eyes the check with Grandpa's 
name signed to it and how even Aunt Louisa could see that 

272 The Village 

Grandpa's name had been and then mamma said Louisa! 
Louisa! Remember Georgie! and that was me, and papa 
cussed too, hollering How in damnation do you expect 
to keep it from him? Ey hiding the newspapers? and Aunt 
Louisa cried again and said how everybody was bound to 
know it, that she didn't expect or hope that any of us could 
ever hold our heads up again, that all she hoped for was to 
keep it from Grandpa because it would kill him. She cried 
hard then and papa had to stop at a branch and get down 
and soak his handkerchief for mamma to wipe Aunt Louisa's 
face with it and then papa took the bottle of tonic out of the 
dash pocket and put a few drops on the handkerchief, and 
Aunt Louisa smelled it and then papa took a dose of the 
tonic out of the bottle and mamma said George! and papa 
drank some more of the tonic and then made like he was 
handing the bottle back for mamma and Aunt Louisa to 
take a dose too and said, "I don't blame you. If I was a 
woman in this family I'd take to drink too. Now let me get 
this bond business straight." 

"It was those road bonds of ma's," Aunt Louisa said. 

We were going fast again now because the horses had 
rested while papa was wetting the handkerchief and taking 
the dose of tonic, and papa was saying All right, what about 
the bonds? when all of a sudden he jerked around in the 
seat and said, "Road bonds? Do you mean he took that 
damn screw driver and prized open your mother's desk too?" 

Then mamma said George! how can you? only Aunt 
Louisa was talking now, quick now, not crying now, not 
yet, and papa with his head turned over his shoulder and 
saying Did Aunt Louisa mean that that five hundred papa 
had to pay out two years ago wasn't all of it? And Aunt 
Louisa said it was twenty-five hundred, only they didn't 
v^ant Grandpa to find it out, and so Grandma put up her 
road bonds for security on the note, and how they said now 

That Will Be Fine 273 

that Uncle Rodney had redeemed Grandma's note and the 
road bonds from the bank with some of the Compress 
Association's bonds out of the safe in the Compress Associa- 
tion office, because when Mr. Pruitt found the Compress 
Association's bonds were missing he looked for them and 
found them in the bank and when he looked in the Compress 
Association's safe all he found was the check for two thou- 
sand dollars with Grandpa's name signed to it, and how 
Mr. Pruitt hadn't lived in Mottstown but a year but even he 
knew that Grandpa never signed that check and besides he 
looked in the bank again and Grandpa never had two 
thousand dollars in it, and how Mr. Pruitt said how he would 
wait until the day after Christmas if Aunt Louisa would 
give him her sworn oath that Uncle Rodney would not go 
away, and Aunt Louisa did it and then she went back up- 
stairs to plead with Uncle Rodney to give Mr. Pruitt the 
bonds and she went into Uncle Rodney's room where she 
had left him, and the window was open and Uncle Rodney 
was gone. 

"Damn Rodney!" papa said. "The bonds! You mean, no- 
body knows where the bonds are?" 

Now we were going fast because we were coming down 
the last hill and into the valley where Mottstown was. Soon 
we would begin to smell it again; it would be just today and 
then tonight and then it would be Christmas, and Aunt 
Louisa sitting there with her face white like a whitewashed 
fence that has been rained on and papa said Who in hell 
ever gave him such a job anyway, and Aunt Louisa said Mr. 
Pruitt, and papa said how even if Mr. Pruitt had only lived 
in Mottstown a few months, and then Aunt Louisa began 
to cry without even putting her handkerchief to her face 
this time and mamma looked at Aunt Louisa and she began 
to cry too and papa took out the whip and hit the team a 
belt with it even if they were going fast and he cussed. 

274 The Village 

"Damnation to hell," papa said. "I see. Pruitt's married." 

Then we could see it too. There were holly wreaths in 
the windows like at home in Jefferson, and I said, "They 
shoot fireworks in Mottstown too like they do in Jefferson." 

Aunt Louisa and mamma were crying good now, and now 
it was papa saying Here, here; remember Georgie, and that 
was me, and Aunt Louisa said, "Yes, yes! Painted ,common 
thing, traipsing up and down the streets all afternoon alone 
in a buggy, and the one and only time Mrs. Church called 
on her, and that was because of Mr. Pruitt's position alone, 
Mrs. Church found her without corsets on and Mrs. Church 
told me she smelled liquor on her breath." 

And papa saying Here, here, and Aunt Louisa crying 
good and saying how it was Mrs. Pruitt that did it because 
Uncle Rodney was young and easy led because he never 
had had opportunities to meet a nice girl and marry her, and 
papa was driving fast toward Grandpa's house and he said, 
"Marry? Rodney marry? What in hell pleasure would he 
get out of slipping out of his own house and waiting until 
after dark and slipping around to the back and climbing up 
the gutter and into a room where there wasn't anybody in 
it but his own wife." 

And so mamma and Aunt Louisa were crying good when 
we got to Grandpa's. 


AND UNCLE RODNEY wasn't there. We came in, and Grandma 
said how Mandy, that was Grandpa's cook, hadn't come 
to cook breakfast and when Grandma sent Emmeline, that 
was Aunt Louisa's baby's nurse, down to Mandy's cabin 
in the back yard, the door was locked on the inside but 
Mandy wouldn't answer and then Grandma went down 
there herself and Mandy wouldn't answer and so Cousin 

That Will Be Fine 275 

Fred climbed in the window and Mandy was gone and Uncle 
Fred had just got back from town then and he and papa both 
hollered, "Locked? on the inside? and nobody in it?" 

And then Uncle Fred told papa to go in and keep Grandpa 
entertained and he would go and then Aunt Louisa grabbed 
papa and Uncle Fred both and said she would keep Grandpa 
quiet and for both of them to go and find him, find him, 
and papa said if only the fool hasn't tried to sell them to some- 
body, and Uncle Fred said Good God, man, don't you 
know that check was dated ten days ago? And so we went 
in where Grandpa was reared back in his chair and saying 
how he hadn't expected papa until tomorrow but by God 
he was glad to see somebody at last because he waked up 
this morning and his cook had quit and Louisa had chased 
off somewhere before daylight and now he couldn't even 
find Uncle Rodney to go down and bring his mail and a 
cigar or two back, and so thank God Christmas never came 
but once a year and so be damned if he wouldn't be glad 
when it was over, only he was laughing now because when 
he said that about Christmas before Christmas he always 
laughed, it wasn't until after Christmas that he didn't laugh 
when he said that about Christmas. Then Aunt Louisa got 
Grandpa's keys out of his pocket herself and opened the 
desk where Uncle Rodney would prize it open with a screw 
driver, and took out Grandpa's tonic and then mamma said 
for me to go and find Cousin Fred and Cousin Louisa. 

So Uncle Rodney wasn't there. Only at first I thought 
maybe it wouldn't be a quarter even, it wouldn't be nothing 
this time, so at first all I had to think about was that anyway 
it would be Christmas and that would be something anyway. 
Because I went on around the house, and so after a while 
papa and Uncle Fred came out, and I could see them through 
the bushes knocking at Mandy's door and calling, "Rodney, 
Rodney," like that. Then I had to get back in the bushes 

276 The Village 

because Uncle Fred had to pass right by me to go to the 
woodshed to get the axe to open Mandy's door. But they 
couldn't fool Uncle Rodney. If Mr. Tucker couldn't fool 
Uncle Rodney in Mr. Tucker's own house, Uncle Fred and 
papa ought to known they couldn't fool him right in his 
own papa's back yard. So I didn't even need to hear them. 
I just waited until after a while Uncle Fred came back out 
the broken door and came to the woodshed and took the axe 
and pulled the lock and hasp and steeple off the woodhouse 
door and went back and then papa came out of Mandy's 
house and they nailed the woodhouse lock onto Mandy's 
door and locked it and they went around behind Mandy's 
house, and I could hear Uncle Fred nailing the windows up. 
Then they went back to the house. But it didn't matter if 
Mandy was in the house too and couldn't get out, because 
the train came from Jefferson with Rosie and papa's Sunday 
clothes on it and so Rosie was there to cook for Grandpa 
and us and so that was all right too. 

But they couldn't fool Uncle Rodney. I could have told 
them that. I could have told them that sometimes Uncle 
Rodney even wanted to wait until after dark to even begin 
to do business. And so it was all right even if it was late in 
the afternoon before I could get away from Cousin Fred 
and Cousin Louisa. It was late; soon they would begin to 
shoot the fireworks downtown, and then we would be hear- 
ing it too, so I could just see his face a little between the 
slats where papa and Uncle Fred had nailed up the back 
window; I could see his face where he hadn't shaved, and he 
was asking me why in hell it took me so long because he 
had heard the Jefferson train come before dinner, before 
eleven o'clock, and laughing about how papa and Uncle 
Fred had nailed him up in the house to keep him when that 
was exactly what he wanted, and that I would have to slip 
out right after supper somehow and did I reckon I could 

That Will Be Fine 277 

manage it? And I said how last Christmas it had been a 
quarter, but I didn't have to slip out of the house that time, 
and he laughed, saying Quarter? Quarter? did I ever see ten 
quarters all at once? and I never did, and he said for me to 
be there with the screw driver right after supper and I 
would see ten quarters, and to remember that even God 
didn't know where he is and so for me to get the hell away 
and stay away until I came back after dark with the screw 

And they couldn't fool me either. Because I had been 
watching the man all afternoon, even when he thought I 
was just playing and maybe because I was from Jefferson 
instead of Mottstown and so I wouldn't know who he was. 
But I did, because once when he was walking past the back 
fence and he stopped and lit his cigar again and I saw the 
badge under his coat when he struck the match and so I 
knew he was like Mr. Watts at Jefferson that catches the 
niggers. So I was playing by the fence and I could hear him 
stopping and looking at me and I played and he said, 
"Howdy, son. Santy Glaus coming to see you tomorrow?" 

"Yes, sir," I said. 

"You're Miss Sarah's boy, from up at Jefferson, ain't you?" 
he said. 

"Yes, sir," I said. 

"Come to- spend Christmas with your grandpa, eh?" he 
said. "I wonder if your Uncle Rodney's at home this after- 

"No, sir," I said. 

"Well, well, that's too bad," he said. "I wanted to see him 
a minute. He's downtown, I reckon?" 

"No, sir," I said. 

"Well, well," he said. "You mean he's gone away on a 
visit, maybe?" 

"Yes, sir," I said. 

278 The Village 

"Well, well," he said. "That's too bad. I wanted to see him 
on a little business. But I reckon it can wait." Then he looked 
at me and then he said, "You're sure he's out of town, 

"Yes, sir," I said. 

"Well, that was all I wanted to know," he said. "If you 
happen to mention this to your Aunt Louisa or your Uncle 
Fred you can tell them that was all I wanted to know." 

"Yes, sir," I said. So he went away. And he didn't pass 
the house any more. I watched for him, but he didn't come 
back. So he couldn't fool me either. 


THEN IT BEGAN to get dark and they started to shoot the fire- 
works downtown. I could hear them, and soon we would 
be seeing the Roman candles and skyrockets and I would 
have the ten quarters then and I thought about the basket 
full of presents and I thought how maybe I could go on 
downtown when I got through working for Uncle Rodney 
and buy a present for Grandpa with a dime out of the ten 
quarters and give it to him tomorrow and maybe, because 
nobody else had given him a present, Grandpa might give 
me a quarter too instead of the dime tomorrow, and that 
would be twenty-one quarters, except for the dime, and that 
would be fine sure enough. But I didn't have time to do that. 
We ate supper, and Rosie had to cook that too, and mamma 
and Aunt Louisa with powder on their faces where they 
had been crying, and Grandpa; it was papa helping him 
take a dose of tonic every now and then all afternoon while 
Uncle Fred was downtown, and Uncle Fred came back and 
papa came out in the hall and Uncle Fred said he had 
looked everywhere, in the bank and in the Compress, and 
how Mr. Pruitt had helped him but they couldn't find a sign 
either of them or of the money, because Uncle Fred war 

That Will Be Fine 279 

afraid because one night last week Uncle Rodney hired 
a rig and went somewhere and Uncle Fred found out 
Uncle Rodney drove over to the main line at Kingston and 
caught the fast train to Memphis, and papa said Damnation, 
and Uncle Fred said By God we will go down there after 
supper and sweat it out of him, because at least we have 
got him. I told Pruitt that and he said that if we hold to 
him, he will hold off and give us a chance. 

So Uncle Fred and papa and Grandpa came in to supper 
together, with Grandpa between them saying Christmas 
don't come but once a year, thank God, so hooray for 
it, and papa and Uncle Fred saying Now you are all 
right, pa; straight ahead now, pa, and Grandpa would go 
straight ahead awhile and then begin to holler Where in hell 
is that damn boy? and that meant Uncle Rodney, and that 
Grandpa was a good mind to go downtown himself and 
haul Uncle Rodney out of that damn pool hall and make 
him come home and see his kinfolks. And so we ate supper 
and mamma said she would take the children upstairs and 
Aunt Louisa said No, Emmeline could put us to bed, and 
so we went up the back stairs, and Emmeline said how she 
had done already had to cook breakfast extra today and if 
folks thought she was going to waste all her Christmas doing 
extra work they never had the sense she give them credit for 
and that this looked like to her it was a good house to be 
away from nohow, and so we went into the room and then 
after a while I went back down the back stairs and I re- 
membered where to find the screw driver too. Then I 
could hear the firecrackers plain from downtown, and the 
moon was shining now but I could still see the Roman 
candles and the skyrockets running up the sky. Then 
Uncle Rodney's hand came out of the crack in the shutter 
and took the screw driver. I couldn't see his face now and 
it wasn't laughing exactly, it didn't sound exactly like 
laughing, it was just the way he breathed behind the shutter. 

i8o The Village 

Because they couldn't fool him. "All right," he said. "Now 
that's ten quarters. But wait. Are you sure nobody knows 
where I am?" 

"Yes, sir," I said. "I waited by the fence until he come 
and asked me." 

"Which one?" Uncle Rodney said. 

"The one that wears the badge," I said. 

Then Uncle Rodney cussed. But it wasn't mad cussing. 
It sounded just like it sounded when he was laughing ex- 
cept the words. 

"He said if you were out of town on a visit, and I said 
Yes sir," I said. 

"Good," Uncle Rodney said. "By God, some day you will 
be as good a business man as I am. And I won't make you 
a liar much longer, either. So now you have got ten quarters, 
haven't you?" 

"No," I said. "I haven't got them yet." 

Then he cussed again, and I said, "I will hold my cap up 
and you can drop them in it and they won't spill then." 

Then he cussed hard, only it wasn't loud. "Only I'm 
not going to give you ten quarters," he said, and I begun 
to say You said and Uncle Rodney said, "Because I am 
going to give you twenty." 

And I said Yes, sir, and he told me how to find the right 
house, and what to do when I found it. Only there wasn't 
any paper to carry this time because Uncle Rodney said how 
this was a twenty-quarter job, and so it was too important 
to put on paper and besides I wouldn't need a paper because 
I would not know them anyhow, and his voice coming hiss- 
ing down from behind the shutter where I couldn't see him 
and still sounding like when he cussed while he was saying 
how papa and Uncle Fred had done him a favor by nailing 
up the door and window and they didn't even have sense 
enough to know it. 

That Will Be Fine 281 

"Start at the corner of the house and count three windows. 
Then throw the handful of gravel against the window. 
Then when the window opens never mind who it will be, 
you won't know anyway just say who you are and then 
say 'He will be at the corner with the buggy in ten minutes. 
Bring the jewelry.' Now you say it," Uncle Rodney said. 

"He will be at the corner with the buggy in ten minutes. 
Bring the jewelry," I said. 

"Say 'Bring all the jewelry,' " Uncle Rodney said. 

"Bring all the jewelry," I said. 

"Good," Uncle Rodney said. Then he said, "Well? What 
are you waiting on?" 

"For the twenty quarters," I said. 

Uncle Rodney cussed again. "Do you expect me to pay 
you before you have done the work?" he said. 

"You said about a buggy," I said. "Maybe you will forget 
to pay me before you go and you might not get back until 
after we go back home. And besides, that day last summer 
when we couldn't do any business with Mrs. Tucker be- 
cause she was sick and you wouldn't pay me the nickel be- 
cause you said it wasn't your fault Mrs. Tucker was sick." 

Then Uncle Rodney cussed hard and quiet behind the 
crack and then he said, "Listen. I haven't got the twenty 
quarters now. I haven't even got one quarter now. And the 
only way I can get any is to get out of here and finish this 
business. And I can't finish this business tonight unless you do 
your work. See? I'll be right behind you. I'll be waiting right 
there at the corner in the buggy when you come back. Now, 
go on. Hurry." 


So I WENT ON ACROSS THE YARD, only the moon was bright 
now and I walked behind the fence until I got to the street* 

282 The Village 

And I could hear the firecrackers and I could see the Roman 
candles and skyrockets sliding up the sky, but the fireworks 
were all downtown, and so all I could see along the street was 
the candles and wreaths in the windows. So I came to the 
lane, went up the lane to the stable, and I could hear the 
horse in the stable, but I didn't know whether it was the right 
stable or not; but pretty soon Uncle Rodney kind of jumped 
around the corner of the stable and said Here you are, and 
he showed me where to stand and listen toward the house and 
he went back into the stable. But I couldn't hear anything 
but Uncle Rodney harnessing the horse, and then he whistled 
and I went back and he had the horse already hitched to the 
buggy and I said Whose horse and buggy is this; it's a lot 
skinnier than Grandpa's horse? And Uncle Rodney said It's 
my horse now, only damn this moonlight to hell. Then I 
went back down the lane to the street and there wasn't any- 
body coming so I waved my arm in the moonlight, and the 
buggy came up and I got in and we went fast. The side cur- 
tains were up and so I couldn't see the skyrockets and Roman 
candles from town, but I could hear the firecrackers and I 
thought maybe we were going through town and maybe 
Uncle Rodney would stop and give me some of the twenty 
quarters and I could buy Grandpa a present for tomorrow, 
but we didn't; Uncle Rodney just raised the side curtain 
without stopping and then I could see the house, the two 
magnolia trees, but we didn't stop until we came to the 

"Now," Uncle Rodney said, "when the window opens, 
say 'He will be at the corner in ten minutes. Bring all the 
jewelry.' Never mind who it will be. You don't want to 
know who it is. You want to even forget what house it is. 

"Yes, sir," I said. "And then you will pay me the " 

"Yes!" he said, cussing. "Yes! Get out of here quick!" 

That Will Be Fine 283 

So I got out and the buggy went on and I went back up 
the street. And the house was dark all right except for one 
light, so it was the right one, besides the two trees. So I went 
across the yard and counted the three windows and I was 
just about to throw the gravel when a lady ran out from be- 
hind a bush and grabbed me. She kept on trying to say some- 
thing, only I couldn't tell what it was, and besides she never 
had time to say very much anyhow because a man ran out 
from behind another bush and grabbed us both. Only he 
grabbed her by the mouth, because I could tell that from the 
kind of slobbering noise she made while she was fighting to 
get loose. 

"Well, boy?" he said. "What is it? Are you the one?" 

"I work for Uncle Rodney," I said. 

"Then you're the one," he said. Now the lady was fighting 
2nd slobbering sure enough, but he held her by the mouth. 
"All right. What is it?" 

Only I didn't know Uncle Rodney ever did business with 
men. But maybe after he began to work in the Compress As- 
sociation he had to. And then he had told me I would not 
know them anyway, so maybe that was what he meant. 

"He says to be at the corner in ten minutes," I said. "And 
to bring all the jewelry. He said for me to say that twice. 
Bring all the jewelry." 

The lady was slobbering and fighting worse than ever 
now, so maybe he had to turn me loose so he could hold her 
with both hands. 

"Bring all the jewelry," he said, holding the lady with both 
hands now. "That's a good idea. That's fine. I don't blame 
him for telling you to say that twice. All right. Now you go 
back to the corner and wait and when he comes, tell him this: 
"She says to come and help carry it.' Say that to him twice, 
too. Understand?" 

"Then I'll get my twenty quarters," I said. 

284 The Village 

"Twenty quarters, hah?" the man said, holding the lady. 
"That's what you are to get, is it? That's not enough. You 
tell him this, too: 'She says to give you a piece of the jew- 
elry.' Understand?" 

"I just want my twenty quarters," I said. 

Then he and the lady went back behind the bushes again 
and I went on, too, back toward the corner, and I could see 
the Roman candles and skyrockets again from toward town 
and I could hear the firecrackers, and then the buggy came 
back and Uncle Rodney was hissing again behind the curtain 
like when he was behind the slats on Mandy's window. 

"Well? "he said. 

"She said for you to come and help carry it," I said. 

"What?" Uncle Rodney said. "She said he's not there?'" 

"No, sir. She said for you to come and help carry it. For 
me to say that twice." Then I said, "Where's my twenty 
quarters?" because he had already jumped out of the buggy 
and jumped across the walk into the shadow of some bushes. 
So I went into the bushes too and said, "You said you would 
give " 

"All right; all right!" Uncle Rodney said. He was kind of 
squatting along the bushes; I could hear him breathing. "I'll 
give them to you tomorrow. I'll give you thirty quarters 
tomorrow. Now you get to hell on home. And if they have 
been down to Mandy's house, you don't know anything. 
Run, now. Hurry." 

"I'd rather have the twenty quarters tonight," I said. 

He was squatting fast along in the shadow of the bushes, 
and I was right behind him, because when he whirled around 
he almost touched me, but I jumped back out of the bushes 
in time and he stood there cussing at me and then he stooped 
down and I saw it was a stick in his hand and I turned and 
ran. Then he went on, squatting along in the shadow, and 
then I went back to the buggy, because the day after Christ- 

That Will Be Fine 285 

mas we would go back to Jefferson, and so if Uncle Rodney 
didn't get back before then I would not see him again until 
next summer and then maybe he would be in business with 
another lady and my twenty quarters would be like my 
nickel that time when Mrs. Tucker was sick. So I waited by 
the buggy and I could watch the skyrockets and the Roman 
candles and I could hear the firecrackers from town, only it 
was late now and so maybe all the stores would be closed and 
so I couldn't buy Grandpa a present, even when Uncle Rod- 
ney came back and gave me my twenty quarters. So I was 
listening to the firecrackers and thinking about how maybe I 
could tell Grandpa that I had wanted to buy him a present 
and so maybe he might give me fifteen cents instead of a dime 
anyway, when all of a sudden they started shooting fire- 
crackers back at the house where Uncle Rodney had gone. 
Only they just shot five of them fast, and when they didn't 
shoot any more I thought that maybe in a minute they would 
shoot the skyrockets and Roman candles too. But they didn't. 
They just shot the five firecrackers right quick and then 
stopped, and I stood by the buggy and then folks began to 
come out of the houses and holler at one another and then I 
began to see men running toward the house where Uncle 
Rodney had gone, and then a man came out of the yard fast 
and went up the street toward Grandpa's and I thought at 
first it was Uncle Rodney and that he had forgotten the 
buggy, until I saw that it wasn't. 

But Uncle Rodney never came back and so I went on 
toward the yard to where the men were, because I could still 
watch the buggy too and see Uncle Rodney if he came back 
out of the bushes, and I came to the yard and I saw six men 
carrying something long and then two other men ran up and 
stopped me and one of them said Hell-fire, it's one of those 
kids, the one from Jefferson. And I could see then that what 
the men were carrying was a window blind with something 

286 The Village 

wrapped in a quilt on it and so I thought at first that they had 
come to help Uncle Rodney carry the jewelry, only I didn't 
see Uncle Rodney anywhere, and then one of the men said, 
"Who? One of the kids? Hell-fire, somebody take him on 

So the man picked me up, but I said I had to wait on Uncle 
Rodney, and the man said that Uncle Rodney would be all 
right, and I said But I wanted to wait for him here, and then 
one of the men behind us said Damn it, get him on out of 
here, and we went on. I was riding on the man's back and 
then I could look back and see the six men in the moonlight 
carrying the blind with the bundle on it, and I said Did it 
belong to Uncle Rodney? and the man said No, if it be- 
longed to anybody now it belonged to Grandpa. And so 
then I knew what it was. 

"It's a side of beef," I said. "You are going to take it to 
Grandpa." Then the other man made a funny sound and the 
one I was riding on said Yes, you might call it a side of beef, 
and I said, "It's a Christmas present for Grandpa. Who is it 
going to be from? Is it from Uncle Rodney?" 

"No," the man said. "Not from him. Call it from the men 
of Mottstown. From all the husbands in Mottstown." 


THEN WE CAME in sight of Grandpa's house. And now the 
lights were all on, even on the porch, and I could see folks 
in the hall, I could see ladies with shawls over their heads,, 
and some more of them going up the walk toward the porch, 
and then I could hear somebody in the house that sounded 
like singing and then papa came out of the house and came 
down the walk to the gate and we came up and the man put 
me down and I saw Rosie waiting at the gate too. Only it 
didn't sound like singing now because there wasn't any music 

That Will Be Fine 287 

with it, and so maybe it was Aunt Louisa again and so maybe 
she didn't like Christmas now any better than Grandpa said 
he didn't like it. 

"It's a present for Grandpa," I said. 

"Yes," papa said. "You go on with Rosie and go to bed. 
Mamma will be there soon. But you be a good boy until she 
comes. You mind Rosie. All right, Rosie. Take him on. 

"You don't need to tell me that," Rosie said. She took my 
hand. "Come on." 

Only we didn't go back into the yard, because Rosie came 
out the gate and we went up the street. And then I thought 
maybe we were going around the back to dodge the people 
and we didn't do that, either. We just went on up the street, 
and I said, "Where are we going?" 

And Rosie said, "We gonter sleep at a lady's house name 
Mrs. Jordon." 

So we went on. I didn't say anything. Because papa had 
forgotten to say anything about my slipping out of the house 
yet and so maybe if I went on to bed and stayed quiet he 
would forget about it until tomorrow too. And besides, the 
main thing was to get a holt of Uncle Rodney and get my 
twenty quarters before we went back home, and so maybe 
that would be all right tomorrow too. So we went on and 
Rosie said Yonder's the house, and we went in the yard and 
then all of a sudden Rosie saw the possum. It was in a persim- 
mon tree in Mrs. Jordon's yard and I could see it against the 
moonlight too, and I hollered, "Run! Run and get Mrs. Jor- 
don's ladder!" 

And Rosie said, "Ladder my foot! You going to bed!" 

But I didn't wait. I began to run toward the house, with 
Rosie running behind me and hollering You, Georgie! You 
come back here! But I didn't stop. We could get the ladder 
and get the possum and give it to Grandpa along with the 

288 The Village 

side of meat and it wouldn't cost even a dime and then maybe 
Grandpa might even give me a quarter too, and then when I 
got the twenty quarters from Uncle Rodney I would have 
twenty-one quarters and that will be fine. 

That Evening Sun 


MONDAY is NO DIFFERENT from any other weekday in Jeffer- 
son now. The streets are paved now, and the telephone and 
electric companies are cutting down more and more of the 
shade trees the water oaks, the maples and locusts and elms 
to make room for iron poles bearing clusters of bloated and 
ghostly and bloodless grapes, and we have a city laundry 
which makes the rounds on Monday morning, gathering the 
bundles of clothes into bright-colored, specially-made motor 
cars: the soiled wearing of a whole week now flees appari- 
tionlike behind alert and irritable electric horns, with a long 
diminishing noise of rubber and asphalt like tearing silk, and 
even the Negro women who still take in white people's 
washing after the old custom, fetch and deliver it in auf.o- 

But fifteen years ago, on Monday morning the quiet, 
dusty, shady streets would be full of Negro women with, 
balanced on their steady, turbaned heads, bundles of clothes 
tied up in sheets, almost as large as cotton bales, carried so 
without touch of hand between the kitchen door of the white 
house and the jlackened washpot beside a cabin door in 
Negro Hollow. 

Nancy would set her bundle on the top of her head, then 
upon the bundle in turn she would set the black straw sailor 


290 The Village 

hat which she wore winter and summer. She was tall, with a 
high, sad face sunken a little where her teeth were missing. 
Sometimes we would go a part of the way down the lane and 
across the pasture with her, to watch the balanced bundle 
and the hat that never bobbed nor wavered, even when she 
walked down into the ditch and up the other side and stooped 
through the fence. She would go down on her hands and 
knees and crawl through the gap, her head rigid, uptilted, 
the bundle steady as a rock or a balloon, and rise to her feet 
again and go on. 

Sometimes the husbands of the washing women would 
fetch and deliver the clothes, but Jesus never did that for 
Nancy, even before father told him to stay away from our 
house, even when Dilsey was sick and Nancy would come to 
cook for us. 

And then about half the time we'd have to go down the 
lane to Nancy's cabin and tell her to come on and cook 
breakfast. We would stop at the ditch, because father told 
us to not have anything to do with Jesus he was a short 
black man, with a razor scar down his face and we would 
throw rocks at Nancy's house until she came to the door, 
leaning her head around it without any clothes on. 

"What yawl mean, chunking my house?" Nancy said. 
"What you little devils mean?" 

"Father says for you to come on and get breakfast," Caddy 
said. "Father says it's over a half an hour now, and you've 
got to come this minute." 

"I aint studying no breakfast," Nancy said. "I going tc 
get my sleep out." 

"I bet you're drunk," Jason said. "Father says you're 
drunk. Are you drunk, Nancy?" 

"Who says I is?" Nancy said. "I got to get my sleep out 
1 dint studying no breakfast." 

That Evening Sun 291 

So after a while we quit chunking the cabin and went back 
home. When she finally came, it was too late for me to go to 
school. So we thought it was whisky until that day they ar- 
rested her again and they were taking her to jail and they 
passed Mr Stovall. He was the cashier in the bank and a dea- 
con in the Baptist church, and Nancy began to say: 

"When you going to pay me, white man? When you going 
to pay me, white man? It's been three times now since you 
paid me a cent " Mr Stovall knocked her down, but she 
kept on saying, "When you going to pay me, white man? It's 
been three times now since " until Mr Stovall kicked her 
in the mouth with his heel and the marshal caught Mr Stovall 
back, and Nancy lying in the street, laughing. She turned 
her head and spat out some blood and teeth and said, "It's 
oeen three times now since he paid me a cent." 

That was how she lost her teeth, and all that day they told 
about Nancy and Mr Stovall, and all that night the ones that 
passed the jail could hear Nancy singing and yelling. They 
could see her hands holding to the window bars, and a lot of 
them stopped along the fence, listening to her and to the 
jailer trying to make her stop. She didn't shut up until almost 
daylight, when the jailer began to hear a bumping and scrap- 
ing upstairs and he went up there and found Nancy hanging 
from the window bar. He said that it was cocaine and not 
whisky, because no nigger would try to commit suicide un- 
less he was full of cocaine, because a nigger full of cocaine 
wasn't a nigger any longer. 

The jailer cut her down and revived her; then he beat her, 
whipped her. She had hung herself with her dress. She had 
fixed it all right, but when they arrested her she didn't have 
on anything except a dress and so she didn't have anything 
to tie her hands with and she couldn't make her hands let go 
of the window ledge. So the jailer heard the noise and ran up 
there and found Nancy hanging from the window, stark 

292 The Village 

naked, her belly already swelling out a little, like a little 

When Dilsey was sick in her cabin and Nancy was cook- 
ing for us, we could see her apron swelling out; that was 
before father told Jesus to stay away from the house. Jesus 
was in the kitchen, sitting behind the stove, with his razor 
scar on his black face like a piece of dirty string. He said it 
was a watermelon that Nancy had under her dress. 

"It never come off of your vine, though," Nancy said. 

"Off of what vine?" Caddy said. 

"I can cut down the vine it did come off of," Jesus said. 

"What makes you want to talk like that before these chil- 
len?" Nancy said. "Whyn't you go on to work? You done et. 
You want Mr Jason to catch you hanging around his kitchen, 
talking that way before these chillen?" 

"Talking what way?" Caddy said. "What vine?" 

"I cant hang around white man's kitchen," Jesus said. "But 
white man can hang around mine. White man can come in 
my house, but I cant stop him. When white man want to 
come in my house, I aint got no house. I cant stop him, but he 
cant kick me outen it. He cant do that." 

Dilsey was still sick in her cabin. Father told Jesus to stay 
off our place. Dilsey was still sick. It was a long time. We 
were in the library after supper. 

"Isn't Nancy through in the kitchen yet?" mother said. 
"It seems to me that she has had plenty of time to have 
finished the dishes." 

"Let Quentin go and see," father said. "Go and see if 
Nancy is through, Quentin. Tell her she can go on home." 

I went to the kitchen. Nancy was through. The dishes 
were put away and the fire was out. Nancy was sitting in a 
chair, close to the cold stove. She looked at me. 

"Mother wants to know if you are through," I said. 

"Yes," Nancy said. She looked at me, "I done finished." 
She looked at me. 

Thai Evening Sun 293 

"What is it?" I said. "What is it?" 

"I aint nothing but a nigger," Nancy said. "It aint none of 
my fault." 

She looked at me, sitting in the chair before the cold stove, 
the sailor hat on her head. I went back to the library. It was 
the cold stove and all, when you think of a kitchen being 
warm and busy and cheerful. And with a cold stove and the 
dishes all put away, and nobody wanting to eat at that hour. 

"Is she through?" mother said. 

"Yessum," I said. 

"What is she doing?" mother said. 

"She's not doing anything. She's through." 

"I'll go and see," father said. 

"Maybe she's waiting for Jesus to come and take her 
home," Caddy said. 

"Jesus is gone," I said. Nrncy told us how one morning 
she woke up and Jesus was gone. 

"He quit me," Nancy said. "Done gone to Memphis, I 
reckon. Dodging them city p<?-lice for a while, I reckon." 

"And a good riddance," father said. "I hope he stays 

"Nancy's scaired of the dark," Jason said. 

"So are you," Caddy said. 

"I'm not," Jason said. 

"Scairy cat," Caddy said. 

"I'm not," Jason said. 

"You, Candace!" mother said. Father came back. 

"I am going to walk down the lane with Nancy," he said. 
"She says that Jesus is back." 

"Has she seen him?" mother said. 

"No. Some Negro sent her word that he was back in town. 
I wont be long." 

"You'll leave me alone, to take Nancy home?" mother said. 
"Is her safety more precious to you than mine?" 

"I wont be long," father said. 

294 The Village 

"You'll leave these children unprotected, with that Negro 

"I'm going too," Caddy said. "Let me go, Father." 

"What would he do with them, if he were unfortunate 
enough to have them?" father said. 

"I want to go, too," Jason said. 

"Jason!" mother said. She was speaking to father. You 
could tell that by the way she said the name. Like she be- 
lieved that all day father had been trying to think of doing 
the thing she wouldn't like the most, and that she knew all 
the time that after a while he would think of it. I stayed quiet, 
because father and I both knew that mother would want 
him to make me stay with her if she just thought of it in 
time. So father didn't look at me. I was the oldest. I was nine 
and Caddy was seven and Jason was five. 

"Nonsense," father said. "We wont be long." 

Nancy had her hat on. We came to the lane. "Jesus always 
been good to me," Nancy said. "Whenever he had two dol- 
lars, one of them was mine." We walked in the lane. "If I 
can just get through the lane," Nancy said, "I be all right 

The lane was always dark. "This is where Jason got scared 
on Hallowe'en," Caddy said. 

"I didn't," Jason said. 

"Cant Aunt Rachel do anything with him?" father said. 
Aunt Rachel was old. She lived in a cabin beyond Nancy's, 
by herself. She had white hair and she smoked a pipe in the 
door, all day long; she didn't work any more. They said she 
was Jesus' mother. Sometimes she said she was and some- 
times she said she wasn't any kin to Jesus. 

"Yes, you did," Caddy said. "You were scairder than 
Frony. You were scairder than T.P even. Scairder than 

"Cant nobody do nothing with him," Nancy said. "He say 

That Evening Sun 295 

I done woke up the devil in him and aint but one thing going 
to lay it down again." 

"Well, he's gone now," father said. "There's nothing for 
you to be afraid of now. And if you'd just let white men 

"Let what white men alone?" Caddy said. "How let them 

"He aint gone nowhere," Nancy said. "I can feel him. I 
can feel him now, in this lane. He hearing us talk, every 
word, hid somewhere, waiting. I aint seen him, and I aint 
going to see him again but once more, with that razor in his 
mouth. That razor on that string down his back, inside his 
shirt. And then I aint going to be even surprised." 

"I wasn't scaired," Jason said. 

"If you'd behave yourself, you'd have kept out of this," 
father said. "But it's all right now. He's probably in St. Louis 
now. Probably got another wife by now and forgot all about 

"If he has, I better not find out about it," Nancy said. "I'd 
stand there right over them, and every time he wropped her, 
I'd cut that arm off. I'd cut his head off and I'd slit her belly 
and I'd shove" 

"Hush," father said. 

"Slit whose belly, Nancy?" Caddy said. 

"I wasn't scaired," Jason said. "I'd walk right down this 
lane by myself." 

"Yah," Caddy said. "You wouldn't dare to put your foot 
down in it if we were not here too." 


DILSEY WAS STILL SICK, so we took Nancy home every night 
until mother said, "How much longer is this going on? I to 

296 The Village 

be left alone in this big house while you take home a fright- 
ened Negro?" 

We fixed a pallet in the kitchen for Nancy. One night we 
waked up, hearing the sound. It was not singing and it waj> 
not crying, coming up the dark stairs. There was a light in 
mother's room and we heard father going down the hall, 
down the back stairs, and Caddy and I went into the hall. 
The floor was cold. Our toes curled away from it while we 
listened to the sound. It was like singing and it wasn't like 
singing, like the sounds that Negroes make. 

Then it stopped and we heard father going down the back 
stairs, and we went to the head of the stairs. Then the sound 
began again, in the stairway, not loud, and we could see 
Nancy's eyes halfway up the stairs, against the wall They 
looked like cat's eyes do, like a big cat against the wall, 
watching us. When we came down the steps to where she 
was, she quit making the sound again, and we stood there 
until father came back up from the kitchen, with his pistol in 
his hand. He went back down with Nancy and they came 
back with Nancy's pallet. 

We spread the pallet in our room. After the light in 
mother's room went off, we could see Nancy's eyes again. 
"Nancy," Caddy whispered, "are you asleep, Nancy?" 

Nancy whispered something. It was oh or no, I dont know 
which. Like nobody had made it, like it came from nowhere 
and went nowhere, until it was like Nancy was not there at 
all; that I had looked so hard at her eyes on the stairs that 
they had got printed on my eyeballs, like the sun does when 
you have closed your eyes and there is no sun. "Jesus," 
Nancy whispered. "Jesus." 

"Was it Jesus?" Caddy said. "Did he try to come into the 

"Jesus," Nancy said. Like this: Jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesus, until 
the sound went out, like a match or a candle does. 

That Evening Sun 297 

"It's the other Jesus she means," I said. 

"Can you see us, Nancy?" Caddy whispered. "Can you 
see our eyes too?" 

"I aint nothing but a nigger," Nancy said. "God knows. 
God knows." 

"What did you see down there in the kitchen?" Caddy 
whispered. "What tried to get in?" 

"God knows," Nancy said. We could see her eyes. "God 

Dilsey got well. She cooked dinner. "You'd better stay in 
bed a day or two longer," father said. 

"What for?" Dilsey said. "If I had been a day later, this 
place would be to rack and ruin. Get on out of here now. 
and let me get my kitchen straight again." 

Dilsey cooked supper too. And that night, just before 
dark, Nancy came into the kitchen. 

"How do you know he's back?" Dilsey said. "You aint 
seen him." 

"Jesus is a nigger," Jason said. 

"I can feel him," Nancy said. "I can feel him laying yonder 
in the ditch." 

"Tonight?" Dilsey said. "Is he there tonight?" 

"Dilsey's a nigger too," Jason said. 

"You try to eat something," Dilsey said. 

"I dont want nothing," Nancy said. 

"I aint a nigger," Jason said. 

"Drink some coffee," Dilsey said. She poured a cup of 
coffee for Nancy. "Do you know he's out there tonight? 
How come you know it's tonight?" 

"I know," Nancy said. "He's there, waiting. I know. I 
done lived with him too long. I know what he is fixing to do 
fore he know it himself." 

"Drink some coffee," Dilsey said. Nancy held the cup to 
her mouth and blew into the cup. Her mouth pursed out 

298 The Village 

like a spreading adder's, like a rubber mouth, like she had 

blown all the color out of her lips with blowing the coffee. 

"I aint a nigger," Jason said. "Are you a nigger, Nancy?" 

"I hellborn, child," Nancy said. "I wont be nothing soon. 

I going back where I come from soon." 


SHE BEGAN TO DRINK the coffee. While she was drinking, hold- 
ing the cup in both hands, she began to make the sound again. 
She made the sound into the cup and the coffee sploshed out 
onto her hands and her dress. Her eyes looked at us and she 
sat there, her elbows on her knees, holding the cup in both 
hands, looking at us across the wet cup, making the sound. 
"Look at Nancy," Jason said. "Nancy cant cook for us now. 
Dilsey's got well now." 

"You hush up," Dilsey said. Nancy held the cup in both 
hands, looking at us, making the sound, like there were two 
of them: one looking at us and the other making the sound. 
"Whyn't you let Mr Jason telefoam the marshal?" Dilsey 
said. Nancy stopped then, holding the cup in her long brown 
hands. She tried to drink some coffee again, but it sploshed 
out of the cup, onto her hands and her dress, and she put the 
cup down. Jason watched her. 

"I cant swallow it," Nancy said. "I swallows but it wont 
go down me." 

"You go down to the cabin," Dilsey said. "Frony will fix 
you a pallet and I'll be there soon." 

"Wont no nigger stop him," Nancy said. 

"I aint a nigger," Jason said. "Am I, Dilsey?" 

"I reckon not," Dilsey said. She looked at Nancy. "I dont 
reckon so. What you going to do, then?" 

Nancy looked at us. Her eyes went fast, like she was afraid 

That Evening Sun 299 

there wasn't time to look, without hardly moving at all. She 
looked at us, at all three of us at one time. "You member that 
night I stayed in yawls' room?" she said. She told about how 
we waked up early the next morning, and played. We had 
to play quiet, on her pallet, until father woke up and it was 
time to get breakfast. "Go and ask your maw to let me stay 
here tonight," Nancy said. "I wont need no pallet. We can 
play some more." 

Caddy asked mother. Jason went too. "I cant have 
Negroes sleeping in the bedrooms," mother said. Jason cried. 
He cried until mother said he couldn't have any dessert for 
three days if he didn't stop. Then Jason said he would stop 
if Dilsey would make a chocolate cake. Father was there. 

"Why dont you do something about it?" mother said. 
"What do we have officers for?" 

"Why is Nancy afraid of Jesus?" Caddy said. "Are you 
afraid of father, mother?" 

"What could the officers do?" father said. "If Nancy 
hasn't seen him, how could the officers find him?" 

"Then why is she afraid?" mother said. 

"She says he is there. She says she knows he is there 

"Yet we pay taxes," mother said. "I must wait here alone 
in this big house while you take a Negro woman home." 

"You know that I am not lying outside with a razor," 
father said. 

"I'll stop if Dilsey will make a chocolate cake," Jason 
said. Mother told us to go out and father said he didn't 
know if Jason would get a chocolate cake or not, but he 
knew what Jason was going to get in about a minute. We 
went back to the kitchen and told Nancy. 

"Father said for you to go home and lock the door, and 
you'll be all right," Caddy said. "All right from what, 
Nancy? Is Jesus mad at you?" Nancy was holding the coffee 

300 The Village 

cup in her hands again, her elbows on her knees and her 
hands holding the cup between her knees. She was looking 
into the cup. "What have you done that made Jesus mad?" 
Caddy said. Nancy let the cup go. It didn't break on the 
floor, but the coffee spilled out, and Nancy sat there with 
her hands still making the shape of the cup. She began to 
make the sound again, not loud. Not singing and not unsing- 
ing. We watched her. 

"Here," Dilsey said. "You quit that, now. You get aholt 
of yourself. You wait here. I going to get Versh to vvalk 
home with you." Dilsey went out. 

We looked at Nancy. Her shoulders kept shaking, but 
she quit making the sound. We watched her. "What's 
Jesus going to do to you?" Caddy said. "He went away," 

Nancy looked at us. "We had fun that night I stayed 
in yawls' room, didn't we?" 

"I didn't," Jason said. "I didn't have any fun." 

"You were asleep in mother's room," Caddy said. "You 
were not there." 

"Let's go down to my house and have some more fun," 
Nancy said. 

"Mother wont let us," I said. "It's too late now." 

"Dont bother her," Nancy said. "We can tell her in the 
morning. She wont mind." 

"She wouldn't let us," I said. 

"Dont ask her now," Nancy said. "Dont bother her now." 

"She didn't say we couldn't go," Caddy said. 

"We didn't ask," I said. 

"If you go, I'll tell," Jason said. 

"We'll have fun," Nancy said. "They won't mind, just to 
my house. I been working for yawl a long time. They won't 

"I'm not afraid to go," Caddy said. "Jason is the one that's 
afraid. He'll tell." 

That Evening Sun 301 

"I'm not," Jason said. 

"Yes, you are," Caddy said. "You'll tell." 

"I won't tell," Jason said. "I'm not afraid." 

"Jason ain't afraid to go with me," Nancy said. "Is you, 

"Jason is going to tell," Caddy said. The lane was dark. 
We passed the pasture gate. "I bet if something was to jump 
out from behind that gate, Jason would holler." 

"I wouldn't," Jason said. We walked down the lane. 
Nancy was talking loud. 

"What are you talking so loud for, Nancy?" Caddy said. 

"Who; me?" Nancy said. "Listen at Quentin and Caddy 
and Jason saying I'm talking loud." 

"You talk like there was five of us here," Caddy said. "You 
talk like father was here too." 

"Who; me talking loud, Mr Jason?" Nancy said. 

"Nancy called Jason 'Mister,' " Caddy said. 

"Listen how Caddy and Quentin and Jason talk," Nancy 

"We're not talking loud," Caddy said. "You're the one 
that's talking like father " 

"Hush," Nancy said; "hush, Mr Jason." 

"Nancy called Jason 'Mister' aguh " 

"Hush," Nancy said. She was talking loud when WQ 
crossed the ditch and stooped through the fence where she 
used to stoop through with the clothes on her head. Then we 
came to her house. We were going fast then. She opened the 
door. The smell of the house was like the lamp and the smell 
of Nancy was like the wick, like they were waiting for one 
another to begin to smell. She lit the lamp and closed the 
door and put the bar up. Then she quit talking loud, looking 
at us. 

"What're we going to do? " Caddy said. 

302 The Village 

"What do yawl want to do?" Nancy said. 

"You said we would have some fun," Caddy said. 

There was something about Nancy's house; something you 
could smell besides Nancy and the house. Jason smelled it, 
even. "I don't want to stay here," he said. "I want to go 

"Go home, then," Caddy said. 

"I don't want to go by myself," Jason said. 

"We're going to have some fun," Nancy said. 

"How?" Caddy said. 

Nancy stood by the door. She was looking at us, only it 
was like she had emptied her eyes, like she had quit using 
them. "What do you want to do?" she said. 

"Tell us a story," Caddy said. "Can you tell a story?" 

"Yes," Nancy said. 

"Tell it," Caddy said. We looked at Nancy. "You don't 
know any stories." 

"Yes," Nancy said. "Yes, I do." 

She came and sat in a chair before the hearth. There was a 
little fire there. Nancy built it up, when it was already hot 
inside. She built a good blaze. She told a story. She talked 
like her eyes looked, like her eyes watching us and her voice 
talking to us did not belong to her. Like she was living some- 
where else, waiting somewhere else. She was outside the 
cabin. Her voice was inside and the shape of her, the Nancy 
that could stoop under a barbed wire fence with a bundle of 
clothes balanced on her head as though without weight, like 
a balloon, was there. But that was all. "And so this here 
queen come walking up to the ditch, where that bad man was 
hiding. She was walking up to the ditch, and she say, 'If I can 
just get past this here ditch,' was what she say . . ." 

"What ditch?" Caddy said. "A ditch like that one out 
there? Why did a queen want to go into a ditch?" 

"To get to her house," Nancy said. She looked at us. "She 

That Evening Sun 303 

had to cross the ditch to get into her house quick and bar 
the door." 

"Why did she want to go home and bar the door?" Caddy 


NANCY LOOKED at us. She quit talking. She looked at us. 
Jason's legs stuck straight out of his pants where he sat on 
Nancy's lap. "I don't think that's a good story," he said. "I 
want to go home." 

"Maybe we had better," Caddy said. She got up from the 
floor. "I bet they are looking for us right now." She went 
toward the door. 

"No," Nancy said. "Don't open it." She got up quick and 
passed Caddy. She didn't touch the door, the wooden bar. 

"Why not?" Caddy said. 

"Come back to the lamp," Nancy said. "We'll have fun. 
You don't have to go." 

"We ought to go," Caddy said. "Unless we have a lot of 
fun." She and Nancy came back to the fire, the lamp. 

"I want to go home," Jason said. "I'm going to tell." 

"I know another story," Nancy said. She stood close to 
the lamp. She looked at Caddy, like when your eyes look up 
at a stick balanced on your nose. She had to look down to 
see Caddy, but her eyes looked like that, like when you are 
balancing a stick. 

"I won't listen to it," Jason said. "I'll bang on the floor." 

"It's a good one," Nancy said. "It's better than the other 

"What's it about?" Caddy said. Nancy was standing by 
the lamp. Her hand was on the lamp, against the light, long 
and brown. 

"Your hand is on that hot crlobe." Caddv said. "Don't it 
feel hot to your hand?" 

304 The Village 

Nancy looked at her hand on the lamp chimney. She took 
her hand away, slow. She stood there, looking at Caddy, 
wringing her long hand as though it were tied to her wrist 
with a string. 

"Let's do something else," Caddy said. 

"I want to go home," Jason said. 

"I got some popcorn," Nancy said. She looked at Caddy 
and then at Jason and then at me and then at Caddy again. 
"I got some popcorn." 

"I don't like popcorn," Jason said. "I'd rather have candy." 

Nancy looked at Jason. "You can hold the popper." She 
was still wringing her hand; it was long and limp and brown. 

"All right," Jason said. "I'll stay a while if I can do that. 
Caddy can't hold it. I'll want to go home again if Caddy 
holds the popper." 

Nancy built up the fire. "Look at Nancy putting her 
hands in the fire," Caddy said. "What's the matter with you, 

"I got popcorn," Nancy said. "I got some." She took the 
popper from under the bed. It was broken. Jason began to 

"Now we can't have any popcorn," he said. 

"We ought to go home, anyway," Caddy said. "Come on, 

"Wait," Nancy said; "wait. I can fix it. Don't you want 
to help me fix it?" 

"I don't think I want any," Caddy said. "It's too late now." 

"You help me, Jason," Nancy said. "Don't you want to 
help me?" 

"No," Jason said. "I want to go home." 

"Hush," Nancy said; "hush. Watch. Watch me. I can fix 
it so Jason can hold it and pop the corn." She got a piece of 
wire and fixed the popper. 

That Evening Sun 305 

"It won't hold good," Caddy said. 

"Yes, it will," Nancy said. "Yawl watch. Yawl help me 
shell some corn." 

The popcorn was under the bed too. We shelled it into the 
popper and Nancy helped Jason hold the popper over the 

"It's not popping," Jason said. "I want to go home." 

"You wait," Nancy said. "It'll begin to pop. We'll have 
fun then." She was sitting close to the fire. The lamp was 
turned up so high it was beginning to smoke. 

"Why don't you turn it down some?" I said. 

"It's all right," Nancy said. "I'll clean it. Yawl wait. The 
popcorn will start in a minute." 

"I don't believe it's going to start," Caddy said. "We ought 
to start home, anyway. They'll be worried." 

"No," Nancy said. "It's going to pop. Dilsey will tell um 
yawl with me. I been working for yawl long time. They 
won't mind if yawl at my house. You wait, now. It'll start 
popping any minute now." 

Then Jason got some smoke in his eyes and he began to 
cry. He dropped the popper into the fire. Nancy got a wet 
rag ard wiped Jason's face, but he didn't stop crying. 

"Hush," she said. "Hush." But he didn't hush. Caddy took 
the popper out of the fire. 

"It's burned up," she said. "You'll have to get some more 
popcorn, Nancy." 

"Did you put all of it in?" Nancy said. 

"Yes," Caddy said. Nancy looked at Caddy. Then she 
took the popper and opened it and poured the cinders into 
her apron and began to sort the grains, her hands long and 
brown, and we watching her. 

"Haven't you got any more?" Caddy said. 

"Yes," Nancy said; "yes. Look. This here ain't burnt. All 
we need to do is " 

306 The Village 

"I want to go home," Jason said. "I'm going to tell" 

"Hush," Caddy said. We all listened. Nancy's head was 
already turned toward the barred door, her eyes filled with 
red lamplight. "Somebody is coming," Caddy said. 

Then Nancy began to make that sound again, not loud, 
sitting there above the fire, her long hands dangling between 
her knees; all of a sudden water began to come out on her 
face in big drops, running down her face, carrying in each 
one a little turning ball of firelight like a spark until it 
dropped off her chin. "She's not crying," I said. 

"I ain't crying," Nancy said. Her eyes were closed. "I ain't 
crying. Who is it?" 

"I don't know," Caddy said. She went to the door and 
looked out. "We've got to go now," she said. "Here comes 

"I'm going to tell," Jason said. "Yawl made me come." 

The water still ran down Nancy's face. She turned in her 
chair. "Listen. Tell him. Tell him we going to have fun. Tell 
him I take good care of yawl until in the morning. Tell him 
to let me come home with yawl and sleep on the floor. Tell 
him I won't need no pallet. We'll have fun. You member 
last time how we had so much fun?" 

"I didn't have fun," Jason said. "You hurt me. You put 
smoke in my eyes. I'm going to tell." 


FATHER CAME IN. He looked at us. Nancy did not get up. 
"Tell him," she said. 
"Caddy made us come down here," Jason said. "I didn't 

want to." 

Father came to the fire. Nancy looked up at him. "Can't 
you go to Aunt Rachel's and stay?" he said. Nancy looked 
up at father, her hands between her knees. "He's not here," 

That Evening Sun 307 

father said. "I would have seen him. There's not a soul in 

"He in the ditch," Nancy said. "He waiting in the ditch 

"Nonsense," father said. He looked at Nancy. "Do you 
know he's there?" 

"I got the sign," Nancy said. 

"What sign?" 

"I got it. It was on the table when I come in. It was a hog- 
bone, with blood meat still on it, laying by the lamp. He's 
out there. When yawl walk out that door, I gone." 

"Gone where, Nancy?" Caddy said. 

"I'm not a tattletale," Jason said. 

"Nonsense," father said. 

"He out there," Nancy said. "He looking through that 
window this minute, waiting for yawl to go. Then I gone." 

"Nonsense," father said. "Lock up your house and we'll 
take you on to Aunt Rachel's." 

" 'Twont do no good," Nancy said. She didn't look at 
father now, but he looked down at her, at her long, limp, 
moving hands. "Putting it off wont do no good." 

"Then what do you want to do?" father said. 

"I don't know," Nancy said. "I can't do nothing. Just put 
it off. And that don't do no good. I reckon it belong to me. 
I reckon what I going to get ain't no more than mine." 

"Get what?" Caddy said. "What's yours?" 

"Nothing," father said. "You all must get to bed." 

"Caddy made me come," Jason said. 

"Go on to Aunt Rachel's," father said. 

"It won't do no good," Nancy said. She sat before the 
fire, her elbows on her knees, her long hands between her 
knees. "When even your own kitchen wouldn't do no good. 
When even if I was sleeping on the floor in the room with 
your chillen, and the next morning there I am, and blood " 

The Village 

"Hush," father said. "Lock the door and put out the lamp 
and go to bed." 

"I scared of the dark," Nancy said. "I scared for it to hap- 
pen in the dark." 

"You mean you're going to sit right here with the lamp 
lighted?" father said. Then Nancy began to make the sound 
again, sitting before the fire, her long hands between her 
knees. "Ah, damnation," father said. "Come along, chillen. 
It's past bedtime." 

"When yawl go home, I gone," Nancy said. She talked 
quieter now, and her face looked quiet, like her hands. "Any- 
way, I got my coffin money saved up with Mr. Lovelady." 
Mr. Lovelady was a short, dirty man who collected the 
Negro insurance, coming around to the cabins or the 
kitchens every Saturday morning, to collect fifteen cents. He 
and his wife lived at the hotel. One morning his wife com- 
mitted suicide. They had a child, a little girl. He and the 
child went away. After a week or two he came back alone. 
We would see him going along the lanes and the back streets 
on Saturday mornings. 

"Nonsense," father said. "You'll be the first thing I'll see 
in the kitchen tomorrow morning." 

"You'll see what you'll see, I reckon," Nancy said. "But 
it will take the Lord to say what that will be." 


WE LEFT HER sitting before the fire. 

"Come and put the bar up," father said. But she didn't 
move. She didn't look at us again, sitting quietly there be- 
tween the lamp and the fire. From some distance down the 
lane we could look back and see her through the open door. 
"What, Father?" Caddy said. "What's going to happen?" 
"Nothing," father said. Jason was on father's back, so 

That Evening Sun 309 

Jason was the tallest of all of us. We went down into the 
ditch. I looked at it, quiet. I couldn't see much where the 
moonlight and the shadows tangled. 

"If Jesus is hid here, he can see us, cant he?" Caddy said. 

"He's not there," father said. "He went away a long time 

"You made me come," Jason said, high; against the sky it 
looked like father had two heads, a little one and a big one. 
"I didn't want to." 

We went up out of the ditch. We could still see Nancy's 
house and the open door, but we couldn't see Nancy now, 
sitting before the fire with the door open, because she was 
tired. "I just done got tired," she said. "I just a nigger. It 
ain't no fault of mine." 

But we could hear her, because she began just after we 
came up out of the ditch, the sound that was not singing and 
not unsinging. "Who will do our washing now, Father?" 
I said. 

"I'm not a nigger," Jason said, high and close above 
father's head. 

"You're worse," Caddy said, "you are a tattletale. If some- 
thing was to jump out, you'd be scairder than a nigger." 

"I wouldn't," Jason said. 

"You'd cry," Caddy said. 

"Caddy," father said. 

"I wouldn't!" Jason said. 

"Scairy cat," Caddy said. 

"Candace!" father said. 


Red Leaves 

A Justice 

A Courtship 


Red Leaves 


THE TWO INDIANS crossed the plantation toward the slave 
quarters. Neat with whitewash, of baked soft brick, the two 
rows of houses in which lived the slaves belonging to the 
clan, faced one another across the mild shade of the lane 
marked and scored with naked feet and with a few home- 
made toys mute in the dust. There was no sign of life. 

"I know what we will find," the first Indian said. 

"What we will not find," the second said. Although it 
was noon, the lane was vacant, the doors of the cabins empty 
and quiet; no cooking smoke rose from any of the chinked 
and plastered chimneys. 

"Yes. It happened like this when the father of him who is 
now the Man, died." 

"You mean, of him who was the Man." 


The first Indian's name was Three Basket. He was per- 
haps sixty. They were both squat men, a little solid, burgher- 
like; paunchy, with big heads, big, broad, dust-colored faces 
of a certain blurred serenity like carved heads on a ruined 
wall in Siam or Sumatra, looming out of a mist. The sun had 
done it, the violent sun, the violent shade. Their hair looked 
like sedge grass on burnt-over land. Clamped through one 
ear Three Basket wore an enameled snuffbox. 


314 The Wilderness 

"I have said all the time that this is not the good way. In 
the old days there were no quarters, no Negroes. A man's 
time was his own then. He had time. Now he must spend 
most of it finding work for them who prefer sweating to do/' 

"They are like horses and dogs." 

"They are like nothing in this sensible world. Nothing 
contents them save sweat. They are worse than the white 

"It is not as though the Man himself had to find work for 
them to do." 

"You said it. I do not like slavery. It is not the good way. 
In the old days, there was the good way. But not now." 

"You do not remember the old way either." 

"I have listened to them who do. And I have tried this 
way. Man was not made to sweat." 

"That's so. See what it has done to their flesh." 

"Yes. Black. It has a bitter taste, too." 

"You have eaten of it?" 

"Once. I was young then, and more hardy in the appetite 
than now. Now it is different with me." 

"Yes. They are too valuable to eat now." 

"There is a bitter taste to the flesh which I do not like." 

"They are too valuable to eat, anyway, when the white 
men will give horses for them." 

They entered the lane. The mute, meager toys the 
fetish-shaped objects made of wood and rags and feathers 
lay in the dust about the patinaed doorsteps, among bones 
and broken gourd dishes. But there was no sound from any 
cabin, no face in any door; had not been since yesterday, 
when Issetibbeha died. But they already knew what they 
would find. 

It was in the central cabin, a house a little larger than the 
others, where at certain phases of the moon the Negroes 
would gather to begin their ceremonies before removing 

Red Leaves 3 1 5 

after nightfall to the creek bottom, where they kept the 
drums. In this room they kept the minor accessories, the 
cryptic ornaments, the ceremonial records which consisted 
of sticks daubed with red clay in symbols. It had a hearth in 
the center of the floor, beneath a hole in the roof, with a few 
cold wood ashes and a suspended iron pot. The window 
shutters were closed; when the two Indians entered, after 
the abashless sunlight they could distinguish nothing with the 
eyes save a movement, shadow, out of which eyeballs rolled, 
so that the place appeared to be full of Negroes. The two 
Indians stood in the doorway. 

"Yao," Basket said. "I said this is not the good way." 

"I don't think I want to be here," the second said. 

"That is black man's fear which you smell. It does not 
smell as ours does." 

"I don't think I want to be here." 

"Your fear has an odor too." 

"Maybe it is Issetibbeha which we smell." 

"Yao. He knows. He knows what we will find here. He 
knew when he died what we should find here today." Out 
of the rank twilight of the room the eyes, the smell, of 
Negroes rolled about them. "I am Three Basket, whom you 
know," Basket said into the room. "We are come from the 
Man. He whom we seek is gone?" The Negroes said nothing. 
The smell of them, of their bodies, seemed to ebb and flux in 
the still hot air. They seemed to be musing as one upon 
something remote, inscrutable. They were like a single 
octopus. They were like the roots of a huge tree uncovered, 
the earth broken momentarily upon the writhen, thick, fetid 
tangle of its lightless and outraged life. "Come," Basket said. 
"You know our errand. Is he whom we seek gone?" 

"They are thinking something," the second said. "I do 
not want to be here." 

"They are knowing something," Basket said. 

316 The Wilderness 

"They are hiding him, you think? " 

"No. He is gone. He has been gone since last night. It hap- 
pened like this before, when the grandfather of him who is 
now the Man died. It took us three days to catch him. For 
three days Doom lay above the ground, saying 1 see my 
horse and my dog. But I do not see my slave. What have 
you done with him that you will not permit me to lie 

"They do not like to die." 

"Yao. They cling. It makes trouble for us, always. A 
people without honor and without decorum. Always a 

"I do not like it here." 

"Nor do I. But then, they are savages; they cannot be 
expected to regard usage. That is why I say that this way 
is a bad way." 

"Yao. They cling. They would even rather work in the 
sun than to enter the earth with a chief. But he is gone." 

The Negroes had said nothing, made no sound. The 
white eyeballs rolled, wild, subdued; the smell was rank, 
violent. "Yes, they fear," the second said. "What shall we 
do now?" 

"Let us go and talk with the Man." 

"Will Moketubbe listen?" 

"What can he do? He will not like to. But he is the Man 


"Yao. He is the Man. He can wear the shoes with the red 
heels all the time now." They turned and went out. There 
was no door in the door frame. There were no doors in 
any of the cabins. 

"He did that anyway," Basket said. 

"Behind Issetibbeha's back. But now they are his shoes, 
since he is the Man." 

"Yao. Issetibbeha did not like it. I have heard. I know that 

Red Leaves 317 

he said to Moketubbe: 'When you are the Man, the shoes 
will be yours. But until then, they are my shoes.' But now 
Moketubbe is the Man; he can wear them." 

"Yao," the second said. "He is the Man now. He used to 
wear the shoes behind Issetibbeha's back, and it was not 
known if Issetibbeha knew this or not. And then Issetibbeha 
became dead, who was not old, and the shoes are Moketub- 
be's, since he is the Man now. What do you think of that?" 

"I don't think about it," Basket said. "Do you?" 

"No," the second said. 

"Good," Basket said. "You are wise." 


THE HOUSE sat on a knoll, surrounded by oak trees. The 
front of it was one story in height, composed of the deck 
house of a steamboat which had gone ashore and which 
Doom, Issetibbeha's father, had dismantled with his slaves 
and hauled on cypress rollers twelve miles home overland. It 
took them five months. His house consisted at the time of one 
brick wall. He set the steamboat broadside on to the wall, 
where now the chipped and flaked gilding of the rococo 
cornices arched in faint splendor above the gilt lettering of 
the stateroom names above the jalousied doors. 

Doom had been born merely a subchief, a Mingo, one of 
three children on the mother's side of the family. He made 
a journey he was a young man then and New Orleans was 
a European city from north Mississippi to New Orleans 
by keel boat, where he met the Chevalier Sceur Blonde de 
Vitry, a man whose social position, on its face, was as 
equivocal as Doom's own. In New Orleans, among the 
gamblers and cutthroats of the river front, Doom, under the 
tutelage of his patron, passed as the chief, the Man, the he- 
reditary owner of that land which belonged to the male side 

318 The Wilderness 

of the family; it was the Chevalier de Vitry who called him 
du homme, and hence Doom. 

They were seen everywhere together the Indian, the 
squat man with a bold, inscrutable, underbred face, and the 
Parisian, the expatriate, the friend, it was said, of Carondelet 
and the intimate of General Wilkinson. Then they disap- 
peared, the two of them, vanishing from their old equivocal 
haunts and leaving behind them the legend of the sums 
which Doom was believed to have won, and some tale about 
a young woman, daughter of a fairly well-to-do West Indian 
family, the son and brother of whom sought Doom with a 
pistol about his old haunts for some time after his disappear- 

Six months later the young woman herself disappeared, 
boarding the St. Louis packet, which put in one night at 
a wood landing on the north Mississippi side, where the 
woman, accompanied by a Negro maid, got off. Four Indians 
met her with a horse and wagon, and they traveled for three 
days, slowly, since she was already big with child, to the 
plantation, where she found that Doom was now chief. He 
never told her how he accomplished it, save that his uncle 
and his cousin had died suddenly. At that time the house 
consisted of a brick wall built by shiftless slaves, against 
which was propped a thatched lean-to divided into rooms 
and littered with bones and refuse, set in the center of ten 
thousand acres of matchless parklike forest where deer 
grazed like domestic cattle. Doom and the woman \vere 
married there a short time before Issetibbeha was born, by 
a combination itinerant minister and slave trader who arrived 
on a mule, to the saddle of which was lashed a cotton um- 
brella and a three-gallon demijohn of whisky. After that, 
Doom began to acquire more slaves and to cultivate some of 
his land, as the white people did. But he never had enough 
for them to do. In utter idleness the majority of them led 
lives transplanted whole out of African jungles, save on the 

Red Leaves 319 

occasions when, entertaining guests, Doom coursed them 
with dogs. 

When Doom died, Issetibbeha, his son, was nineteen. He 
became proprietor of the land and of the quintupled herd 
of blacks for which he had no use at all. Though the title 
of Man rested with him, there was a hierarchy of cousins 
and uncles who ruled the clan and who finally gathered in 
squatting conclave over the Negro question, squatting pro- 
foundly beneath the golden names above the doors of the 

"We cannot eat them," one said. 

"Why not?" 

"There are too many of them." 

"That's true," a third said. "Once we started, we should 
have to eat them all. And that much flesh diet is not good 
for man." 

"Perhaps they will be like deer flesh. That cannot hurt 

"We might kill a few of them and not eat them," Issetib- 
beha said. 

They looked at him for a while. "What for?" one said. 

"That is true," a second said. "We cannot do that. They 
are too valuable; remember all the bother they have caused 
us, finding things for them to do. We must do as the white 
men do." 

"How is that?" Issetibbeha said. 

"Raise more Negroes by clearing more land to make corn 
to feed them, then sell them. We will clear the land and 
plant it with food and raise Negroes and sell them to the 
white men for money." 

"But what will we do with this money?" a third said. 

They thought for a while. 

"We will see," the first said. They squatted, profound, 

"It means work," the third said. 

320 The Wilderness 

"Let the Negroes do it," the first said. 

"Yao. Let them. To sweat is bad. It is damp. It opens the 

"And then the night air enters." 

"Yao. Let the Negroes do it. They appear to like sweat- 

So they cleared the land with the Negroes and planted 
it in grain. Up to that time the slaves had lived in a huge 
pen with a lean-to roof over one corner, like a pen for pigs. 
But now they began to build quarters, cabins, putting the 
young Negroes in the cabins in pairs to mate; five years 
later Issetibbeha sold forty head to a Memphis trader, and 
he took the money and went abroad upon it, his maternal 
uncle from New Orleans conducting the trip. At that time 
the Chevalier Soeur Blonde de Vitry was an old man in 
Paris, in a toupee and a corset, with a careful toothless old 
face fixed in a grimace quizzical and profoundly tragic. He 
borrowed three hundred dollars from Issetibbeha and in 
return he introduced him into certain circles; a year later 
Issetibbeha returned home with a gilt bed, a pair of girandoles 
by whose light it was said that Pompadour arranged her 
hair while Louis smirked at his mirrored face across her 
powdered shoulder, and a pair of slippers with red heels. 
They were too small for him, since he had not worn shoes 
at all until he reached New Orleans on his way abroad. 

He brought the slippers home in tissue paper and kept them 
in the remaining pocket of a pair of saddlebags filled with 
cedar shavings, save when he took them out on occasion for 
his son, Moketubbe, to play with. At three years of age 
Moketubbe had a broad, flat, Mongolian face that appeared 
to exist in a complete and unfathomable lethargy, until con- 
fronted by the slippers. 

Moketubbe's mother was a comely girl whom Issetibbeha 
had seen one day working in her shift in a melon patch. He 

Red Leaves 321 

stopped and watched her for a while the broad, solid thighs, 
the sound back, the serene face. He was on his way to the 
creek to fish that day, but he didn't go any farther; perhaps 
while he stood there watching the unaware girl he may have 
remembered his own mother, the city woman, the fugitive 
with her fans and laces and her Negro blood, and all the 
tawdry shabbiness of that sorry affair. Within the year 
Moketubbe was born; even at three he could not get his feet 
into the slippers. Watching him in the still, hot afternoons 
as he struggled with the slippers with a certain monstrous 
repudiation of fact, Issetibbeha laughed quietly to himself. 
He laughed at Moketubbe and the shoes for several years, 
because Moketubbe did not give up trying to put them on 
until he was sixteen. Then he quit. Or Issetibbeha thought 
he had. But he had merely quit trying in Issetibbeha's pres- 
ence. Issetibbeha's newest wife told him that Moketubbe had 
stolen and hidden the shoes. Issetibbeha quit laughing then, 
and he sent the woman away, so that he was alone. "Yao," 
he said. "I too like being alive, it seems." He sent for Moke- 
tubbe. "I give them to you," he said. 

Moketubbe was twenty-five then, unmarried. Issetibbeha 
was not tall, but he was taller by six inches than his son and 
almost a hundred pounds lighter. Moketubbe was already 
diseased with flesh, with a pale, broad, inert face and drop- 
sical hands and feet. "They are yours now," Issetibbeha said, 
watching him. Moketubbe had looked at him once when he 
entered, a glance brief, discreet, veiled. 

"Thanks," he said. 

Issetibbeha looked at him. He could never tell if Moke- 
tubbe saw anything, looked at anything. "Why will it not be 
the same if I give the slippers to you?" 

"Thanks," Moketubbe said. Issetibbeha was using snuff at 
the time; a white man had shown him how to put the powder 

322 The Wilderness: 

into his lip and scour it against his teeth with a twig of gum 
or of alphea. 

"Well," he said, "a man cannot live forever." He looked 
at his son, then his gaze went blank in turn, unseeing, and 
he mused for an instant. You could not tell what he was 
thinking, save that he said half aloud: "Yao. But Doom's 
uncle had no shoes with red heels." He looked at his son 
again, fat, inert. "Beneath all that, a man might think of 
doing anything and it not be known until too late." He sat 
in a splint chair hammocked with deer thongs. a He cannot 
even get them on; he and I are both frustrated by the same 
gross meat which he wears. He cannot even get them on. 
But is that my fault? " 

He lived for five years longer, then he died. He was sick 
one night, and though the doctor came in a skunk-skin vest 
and burned sticks, he died before noon. 

That was yesterday; the grave was dug, and for twelve 
hours now the People had been coming in wagons and car- 
riages and on horseback and afoot, to eat the baked dog and 
the succotash and the yams cooked in ashes and to attend 
the funeral. 


"Ix WILL BE THREE DAYS," Basket said, as he and the other 
Indian returned to the house. "It will be three days and the 
food will not be enough; I have seen it before." 

The second Indian's name was Louis Berry. "He will 
smell too, in this weather." 

"Yao. They are nothing but a trouble and a care." 

"Maybe it will not take three days." 

"They run far. Yao. We will smell this Man before he 
enters the earth. You watch and see if I am not right." 

They approached the house. 

Red Leaves 323 

"He can wear the shoes now," Berry said. "He can wear 
them now in man's sight." 

"He cannot wear them for a while yet," Basket said. Berry 
looked at him. "He will lead the hunt." 

"Moketubbe?" Berry said. "Do you think he will? A man 
to whom even talking is travail?" 

"What else can he do? It is his own father who will soon 
begin to smell." 

"That is true," Berry said. "There is even yet a price he 
must pay for the shoes. Yao. He has truly bought them. 
What do you think?" 

"What do you think?" 

"What do you think?" 

"I think nothing." 

"Nor do I. Issetibbeha will not need the shoes now. Let 
Moketubbe have them; Issetibbeha will not care." 

"Yao. Man must die." 

"Yao. Let him; there is still the Man." 

The bark roof of the porch was supported by peeled 
cypress poles, high above the texas of the steamboat, shad- 
ing an unfloored banquette where on the trodden earth 
mules and horses were tethered in bad weather. On the 
forward end of the steamboat's deck sat an old man and 
two women. One of the women was dressing a fowl, the 
other was shelling corn. The old man was talking. He was 
barefoot, in a long linen frock coat and a beaver hat. 

"This world is going to the dogs," he said. "It is being 
ruined by white men. We got along fine for years and 
years, before the white men foisted their Negroes upon 
us. In the old days the old men sat in the shade and ate 
stewed deer's flesh and corn and smoked tobacco and talked 
of honor and grave affairs; now what do we do? Even the 
old wear themselves into the grave taking care of them that 
like sweating." When Basket and Berry crossed the deck 

324 The Wilderness 

he ceased and looked up at them. His eyes were querulous, 
bleared; his face was myriad with tiny wrinkles. "He is fled 
also," he said. 

"Yes," Berry said, "he is gone." 

"I knew it. I told them so. It will take three weeks, like 
when Doom died. You watch and see." 

"It was three days, not three weeks," Berry said. 

"Were you there?" 

"No," Berry said. "But I have heard." 

"Well, I was there," the old man said. "For three whole 
weeks, through the swamps and the briers " They went 
on and left him talking. 

What had been the saloon of the steamboat was now a 
shell, rotting slowly; the polished mahogany, the carving 
glinting momentarily and fading through the mold in figures 
cabalistic and profound; the gutted windows were like 
cataracted eyes. It contained a few sacks of seed or grain, 
and the fore part of the running gear of a barouche, to the 
axle of which two C-springs rusted in graceful curves, sup- 
porting nothing. In one corner a fox cub ran steadily and 
soundlessly up and down a willow cage; three scrawny 
gamecocks moved in the dust, and the place was pocked 
and marked with their dried droppings. 

They passed through the brick wall and entered a big 
room of chinked logs. It contained the hinder part of the 
barouche, and the dismantled body lying on its side, the 
window slatted over with willow withes, through which 
protruded the heads, the still, beady, outraged eyes and frayed 
combs of still more game chickens. It was floored with 
packed clay; in one corner leaned a crude plow and two 
hand-hewn boat paddles. From the ceiling, suspended by 
four deer thongs, hung the gilt bed which Issetibbeha had 
fetched from Paris. It had neither mattress nor springs, the 
frame crisscrossed now by a neat hammocking of thongs. 

Red Leaves 325 

Issetibbeha had tried to have his newest wife, the young 
one, sleep in the bed. He was congenitally short of breath 
himself, and he passed the nights half reclining in his splint 
chair. He would see her to bed and, later, wakeful, sleeping 
as he did but three or four hours a night, he would sit in the 
darkness and simulate slumber and listen to her sneak 
infinitesimally from the gilt and ribboned bed, to lie on a 
quilt pallet on the floor until just before daylight. Then she 
would enter the bed quietly again and in turn simulate 
slumber, while in the darkness beside her Issetibbeha quietly 
laughed and laughed. 

The girandoles were lashed by thongs to two sticks 
propped in a corner where a ten-gallon whisky keg lay also. 
There was a clay hearth; facing it, in the splint chair, Moke- 
tubbe sat. He was maybe an inch better than five feet tall, 
and he weighed two hundred and fifty pounds. He wore a 
broadcloth coat and no shirt, his round, smooth copper 
balloon of belly swelling above the bottom piece of a suit 
of linen underwear. On his feet were the slippers with the red 
heels. Behind his chair stood a stripling with a punkah-like 
fan made of fringed paper. Moketubbe sat motionless, with 
his broad, yellow face with its closed eyes and flat nostrils, 
his flipperlike arms extended. On his face was an expression 
profound, tragic, and inert. He did not open his eyes when 
Basket and Berry came in. 

"He has worn them since daylight?" Basket said. 

"Since daylight," the stripling said. The fan did not cease. 
"You can see." 

"Yao," Basket said. "We can see." Moketubbe did not 
move. He looked like an effigy, like a Malay god in frock 
coat, drawers, naked chest, the trivial scarkt-heeled shoes. 

"I wouldn't disturb him, if I were you," the stripling said. 

"Not if I were you," Basket said. He and Berry squatted. 
The stripling moved the fan steadily. "O Man," Basket said, 

326 The Wilderness 

"listen." Moketubbe did not move. "He is gone," Basket 

"I told you so," the stripling said. "I knew he would flee. 
I told you." 

"Yao," Basket said. "You are not the first to tell us after- 
ward what we should have known before. Why is it that 
some of you wise men took no steps yesterday to prevent 

"He does not wish to die," Berry said. 

"Why should he not wish it?" Basket said. 

"Because he must die some day is no reason," the stripling 
said. "That would not convince me either, old man." 

"Hold your tongue," Berry said. 

"For twenty years," Basket said, "while others of his race 
sweat in the fields, he served the Man in the shade. Why 
should he not wish to die, since he did not wish to sweat?" 

"And it will be quick," Berry said. "It will not take long. s 

"Catch him and tell him that," the stripling said. 

"Hush," Berry said. They squatted, watching Moketubbe's 
face. He might have been dead himself. It was as though 
he were cased so in flesh that even breathing took place too 
deep within him to show. 

"Listen, O Man," Basket said. "Issetibbeha is dead. He 
waits. His dog and his horse we have. But his slave has fled. 
The one who held the pot for him, who ate of his food, 
from his dish, is fled. Issetibbeha waits." 

"Yao," Berry said. 

"This is not the first time," Basket said. "This happened 
when Doom, thy grandfather, lay waiting at the door of the 
earth. He lay waiting three days, saying, 'Where is my 
Negro?' And Issetibbeha, thy father, answered, 'I will find 
him. Rest; I will bring him to you so that you may begin 
the journey/ " 

"Yao," Berry said. 

Red Leaves 327 

Moketubbe had not moved, had not opened his eyes. 

"For three days Issetibbeha hunted in the bottom," Basket 
said. "He did not even return home for food, until the 
Negro was with him; then he said to Doom, his father, 
'Here is thy dog, thy horse, thy Negro; rest.' Issetibbeha, 
who is dead since yesterday, said it. And now Issetibbeha's 
Negro is fled. His horse and his dog wait with him, but his 
Negro is fled." 

"Yao," Berry said. 

Moketubbe had not moved. His eyes were closed; upon 
his supine monstrous shape there was a colossal inertia, 
something profoundly immobile, beyond and impervious to 
flesh. They watched his face, squatting. 

"When thy father was newly the Man, this happened," 
Basket said. "And it was Issetibbeha who brought back the 
slave to where his father waited to enter the earth." Moke- 
tubbe's face had not moved, his eyes had not moved. After 
a while Basket said, "Remove the shoes." 

The stripling removed the shoes. Moketubbe began to 
pant, his bare chest moving deep, as though he were rising 
from beyond his unfathomed flesh back into life, like up 
from the water, the sea. But his eyes had not opened yet. 

Berry said, "He will lead the hunt." 

"Yao," Basket said. "He is the Man. He will lead the hunt." 


ALL THAT DAY the Negro, Issetibbeha's body servant, hidden 
in the barn, watched Issetibbeha's dying. He was forty, a 
Guinea man. He had a flat nose, a close, small head; the 
inside corners of his eyes showed red a little, and his prom- 
inent gums were a pale bluish red above his square, broad 
teeth. He had been taken at fourteen by a trader off Kam- 

328 The Wilderness 

erun, before his teeth had been filed. He had been Issetib- 
beha's body servant for twenty-three years. 

On the day before, the day on which Issetibbeha lay sick, 
he returned to the quarters at dusk. In that unhurried hour 
the smoke of the cooking fires blew slowly across the street 
from door to door, carrying into the opposite one the smell 
of the identical meat and bread. The women tended them; 
the men were gathered at the head of the lane, watching him 
as he came down the slope from the house, putting his naked 
feet down carefully in a strange dusk. To the waiting men 
his eyeballs were a little luminous. 

"Issetibbeha is not dead yet," the headman said. 

"Not dead," the body servant said. "Who not dead?" 

In the dusk they had faces like his, the different ages, the 
thoughts sealed inscrutable behind faces like the death masks 
of apes. The smell of the fires, the cooking, blew sharp and 
slow across the strange dusk, as from another world, above 
the lane and the pickaninnies naked in the dust. 

"If he lives past sundown, he will live until daybreak," 
one said. 

"Who says?" 

"Talk says." 

"Yao. Talk says. We know but one thing." They looked 
at the body servant as he stood among them, his eyeballs 
a little luminous. He was breathing slow and deep. His chest 
was bare; he was sweating a little. "He knows. He knows it." 

"Let us let the drums talk." 

"Yao. Let the drums tell it." 

The drums began after dark. They kept them hidden in 
the creek bottom. They were made of hollowed cypress 
knees, and the Negroes kept them hidden; why, none knew. 
They were buried in the mud on the bank of a slough; a 
lad of fourteen guarded them. He was undersized, and a 
mute; he squatted in the mud there all day, clouded over 

Red Leaves 329 

with mosquitoes, naked save for the mud with which he 
coated himself against the mosquitoes, and about his neck a 
fiber bag containing a pig's rib to which black shreds of 
flesh still adhered, and two scaly barks on a wire. He slob- 
bered onto his clutched knees, drooling; now and then 
Indians came noiselessly out of the bushes behind him and 
stood there and contemplated him for a while and went 
away, and he never knew it. 

From the loft of the stable where he lay hidden until 
dark and after, the Negro could hear the drums. They were 
three miles away, but he could hear them as though they 
were in the barn itself below him, thudding and thudding. 
It was as though he could see the fire too, and the black 
limbs turning into and out of the flames in copper gleams. 
Only there would be no fire. There would be no more light 
there than where he lay in the dusty loft, with the whisper- 
ing arpeggios of rat feet along the warm and immemorial 
ax-squared rafters. The only fire there would be the smudge 
against mosquitoes where the women with nursing children 
crouched, their heavy sluggish breasts nippled full and 
smooth into the mouths of men children; contemplative, 
oblivious of the drumming, since a fire would signify life. 

There was a fire in the steamboat, where Issetibbeha lay 
dying among his wives, beneath the lashed girandoles and the 
suspended bed. He could see the smoke, and just before sun- 
set he saw the doctor come out, in a waistcoat made of 
skunk skins, and set fire to two clay-daubed sticks at the 
bows of the boat deck. "So he is not dead yet," the Negro 
said into the whispering gloom of the loft, answering him- 
self; he could hear the two voices, himself and himself: 

"Who not dead?" 

"You are dead." 

"Yao, I am dead," he said quietly. He wished to be where 
the drums were. He imagined himself springing out of the 

330 The Wilderness 

bushes, leaping among the drums on his bare, lean, greasy, 
invisible limbs. But he could not do that, because man leaped 
past life, into where death was; he dashed into death and did 
not die, because when death took a man, it took him just this 
side of the end of living. It was when death overran him 
from behind, still in life. The thin whisper of rat feet died 
in fainting gusts along the rafters. Once he had eaten rat. 
He was a boy then, but just come to America. They had 
lived ninety days in a three-foot-high 'tween-deck in tropic 
latitudes, hearing from topside the drunken New England 
captain intoning aloud from a book which he did not recog- 
nize for ten years afterward to be the Bible. Squatting in the 
stable so, he had watched the rat, civilized, by association 
with man reft of its inherent cunning of limb and eye; he 
had caught it without difficulty, with scarce a movement 
of his hand, and he ate it slowly, wondering how any of the 
rats had escaped so long. At that time he was still wearing 
the single white garment which the trader, a deacon in the 
Unitarian church, had given him, and he spoke then only his 
native tongue. 

He was naked now, save for a pair of dungaree pants 
bought by Indians from white men, and an amulet slung on 
a thong about his hips. The amulet consisted of one half of 
a mother-of-pearl lorgnon which Issetibbeha had brought 
back from Paris, and the skull of a cottonmouth moccasin. 
He had killed the snake himself and eaten it, save the poison 
head. He lay in the loft, watching the house, the steamboat, 
listening to the drums, thinking of himself among the drums. 

He lay there all night. The next morning he saw the doctor 
come out, in his skunk vest, and get on his mule and ride 
away, and he became quite still and watched the final dust 
from beneath the mule's delicate feet die away, and then he 
found that he was still breathing and it seemed strange to 
him that he still breathed air, still needed air. Then he lay 

Red Leaves 331 

and watched quietly, waiting to move, his eyeballs a little 
luminous, but with a quiet light, and his breathing light and 
regular, and saw Louis Berry come out and look at the sky. 
It was good light then, and already five Indians squatted in 
their Sunday clothes along the steamboat deck; by noon 
there were twenty-five there. That afternoon they dug the 
trench in which the meat would be baked, and the yams; 
by that time there were almost a hundred guests decorous, 
quiet, patient in their stiff European finery and he watched 
Berry lead Issetibbeha's mare from the stable and tie her to 
a tree, and then he watched Berry emerge from the house 
with the old hound which lay beside Issetibbeha's chair. He 
tied the hound to the tree too, and it sat there, looking 
gravely about at the faces. Then it began to howl. It was still 
howling at sundown, when the Negro climbed down the 
back wall of the barn and entered the spring branch, where 
it was already dusk. He began to run then. He could hear 
the hound howling behind him, and near the spring, already 
running, he passed another Negro. The two men, the one 
motionless and the other running, looked for an instant at 
each other as though across an actual boundary between twc 
different worlds. He ran on into full darkness, mouth closed, 
fists doubled, his broad nostrils bellowing steadily. 

He ran on in the darkness. He knew the country well, 
because he had hunted it often with Issetibbeha, following on 
his mule the course of the fox or the cat beside Issetibbeha's 
mare; he knew it as well as did the men who would pursue 
him. He saw them for the first time shortly before sunset of 
the second day. He had run thirty miles then, up the creek 
bottom, before doubling back; lying in a pawpaw thicket 
he saw the pursuit for the first time. There were two of 
them, in shirts and straw hats, carrying their neatly rolled 
trousers under their arms, and they had no weapons. They 
were middle-aged, paunchy, and they could not have moved 

332 The Wilderness 

very fast anyway; it would be twelve hours before they 
could return to where he lay watching them. "So I will have 
until midnight to rest," he said. He was near enough to the 
plantation to smell the cooking fires, and he thought how 
he ought to be hungry, since he had not eaten in thirty 
hours. "But it is more important to rest," he told himself. 
He continued to tell himself that, lying in the pawpaw 
thicket, because the effort of resting, the need and the haste 
to rest, made his heart thud the same as the running had 
done. It was as though he had forgot how to rest, as though 
the six hours were not long enough to do it in, to remember 
again how to do it. 

As soon as dark came he moved again. lie had thought 
to keep going steadily and quietly through the night, since 
there was nowhere for him to go, but as soon as he moved 
he began to run at top speed, breasting his panting chest, his 
broad-flaring nostrils through the choked and whipping dark- 
ness. He ran for an hour, lost by then, without direction, 
when suddenly he stopped, and after a time his thudding 
heart unraveled from the sound of the drums. By the sound 
they were not two miles away; he followed the sound until 
he could smell the smudge fire and taste the acrid smoke. 
When he stood among them the drums did not cease; only 
the headman came to him where he stood in the drifting 
smudge, panting, his nostrils flaring and pulsing, the hushed 
glare of his ceaseless eyeballs in his mud-daubed face as 
though they were worked from lungs. 

"We have expected thee," the headman said. "Go, now." 


"Eat, and go. The dead may not consort with the living; 
thou knowest that." 

"Yao. I know that." They did not look at one another. 
The drums had not ceased. 

"Wilt thou eat?" the headman said. 

Red Leaves 333 

"I am not hungry. I caught a rabbit this afternoon, and 
ate while I lay hidden/' 

"Take some cooked meat with thee, then." 

He accepted the cooked meat, wrapped in leaves, and 
entered the creek bottom again; after a while the sound of 
the drums ceased. He walked steadily until daybreak. "I 
have twelve hours," he said. "Maybe more, since the trail 
was followed by night." He squatted and ate the meat and 
wiped his hands on his thighs. Then he rose and removed 
the dungaree pants and squatted again beside a slough and 
coated himself with mud face, arms, body and legs and 
squatted again, clasping his knees, his head bowed. When it 
was light enough to see, he moved back into the swamp and 
squatted again and went to sleep so. He did not dream at all. 
It was well that he moved, for, waking suddenly in broad 
daylight and the high sun, he saw the two Indians. They 
still carried their neatly rolled trousers; they stood opposite 
the place where he lay hidden, paunchy, thick, soft-looking, 
a little ludicrous in their straw hats and shirt tails. 

"This is wearying work," one said. 

"I'd rather be at home in the shade myself," the other said. 
"But there is the Man waiting at the door to the earth." 

"Yao." They looked quietly about; stooping, one of them 
removed from his shirt tail a clot of cockleburs. "Damn that 
Negro," he said. 

"Yao. When have they ever been anything but a trial and 
a care to us?" 

In the early afternoon, from the top of a tree, the Negro 
looked down into the plantation. He could see Issetibbeha's 
body in a hammock between the two trees where the horse 
and the dog were tethered, and the concourse about the 
steamboat was filled with wagons and horses and mules, 
with carts and saddle-horses, while in bright clumps the 
women and the smaller children and the old men squatted 

334 The Wilderness 

about the long trench where the smoke from the barbecuing 
meat blew slow and thick. The men and the big boys would 
all be down there in the creek bottom behind him, on the 
trail, their Sunday clothes rolled carefully up and wedged 
into tree crotches. There was a clump of men near the door 
to the house, to the saloon of the steamboat, though, and he 
watched them, and after a while he saw them bring Moke- 
tubbe out in a litter made of buckskin and persimmon poles; 
high hidden in his leafed nook the Negro, the quarry, looked 
quietly down upon his irrevocable doom with an expression 
as profound as Moketubbe's own. "Yao," he said quietly. 
"He will go then. That man whose body has been dead for 
fifteen years, he will go also." 

In the middle of the afternoon he came face to face with 
an Indian. They were both on a footlog across a slough 
the Negro gaunt, lean, hard, tireless and desperate; the 
Indian thick, soft-looking, the apparent embodiment of the 
ultimate and the supreme reluctance and inertia. The Indian 
made no move, no sound; he stood on the log and watched 
the Negro plunge into the slough and swim ashore and crash 
away into the undergrowth. 

Just before sunset he lay behind a down log. Up the log 
in slow procession moved a line of ants. He caught them and 
ate them slowly, with a kind of detachment, like that of a 
dinner guest eating salted nuts from a dish. They too had a 
salt taste, engendering a salivary reaction out of all propor- 
tion. He ate them slowly, watching the unbroken line move 
up the log and into oblivious doom with a steady and terrific 
undeviation. He had eaten nothing else all day; in his caked 
mud mask his eyes rolled in reddened rims. At sunset, creep- 
ing along the creek bank toward where he had spotted a 
frog, a cottonmouth moccasin slashed him suddenly across 
the forearm with a thick, sluggish blow. It struck clumsily, 
leaving two long slashes across his arm like two razor slashes, 

Red Leaves 335 

and half sprawled with its own momentum and rage, it ap- 
peared for the moment utterly helpless with its own awk- 
wardness and choleric anger. "Ole, grandfather," the Negro 
said. He touched its head and watched it slash him again 
across his arm, and again, with thick, raking, awkward 
blows. "It's that I do not wish to die," he said. Then he said 
it again "It's that I do not wish to die" in a quiet tone, 
of slow and low amaze, as though it were something that, 
until the words had said themselves, he found that he had not 
known, or had not known the depth and extent of his desire. 


MOKETUBBE TOOK the slippers with him. He could not wear 
them very long while in motion, not even in the litter where 
he was slung reclining, so they rested upon a square of 
fawnskin upon his lap the cracked, frail slippers a little 
shapeless now, with their scaled patent-leather surfaces and 
buckleless tongues and scarlet heels, lying upon the supine 
obese shape just barely alive, carried through swamp and 
brier by swinging relays of men who bore steadily all day 
long the crime and its object, on the business of the slain. 
To Moketubbe it must have been as though, himself immor- 
tal, he were being carried rapidly through hell by doomed 
spirits which, alive, had contemplated his disaster, and, dead, 
were oblivious partners to his damnation. 

After resting for a while, the litter propped in the center 
of the squatting circle and Moketubbe motionless in it, with 
closed eyes and his face at once peaceful for the instant and 
filled with inescapable foreknowledge, he could wear the 
slippers for a while. The stripling put them on him, forcing 
his big, tender, dropsical feet into them; whereupon into his 
face came again that expression tragic, passive and pro- 
foundly attentive, which dyspeptics wear. Then they went 

336 The Wilderness 

on. He made no move, no sound, inert in the rhythmic litter 
out of some reserve of inertia, or maybe of some kingly 
virtue such as courage or fortitude. After a time they set the 
litter down and looked at him, at the yellow face like that 
of an idol, beaded over with sweat. Then Three Basket or 
Had-Two-Fathers would say: "Take them off. Honor has 
been served/' They would remove the shoes. Moketubbe's 
face would not alter, but only then would his breathing be- 
come perceptible, going in and out of his pale lips with a 
faint ah-ah-ah sound, and they would squat again while the 
couriers and the runners came up. 

"Not yet?" 

"Not yet. He is going east. By sunset he will reach Mouth 
of Tippah. Then he will turn back. We may take him 


"Let us hope so. It will not be too soon." 
"Yao. It has been three days now." 
"When Doom died, it took only three days." 
"But that was an old man. This one is young." 
"Yao. A good race. If he is taken tomorrow, I will win a 

"May you win it." 
"Yao. This work is not pleasant." 

That was the day on which the food gave out at the plan- 
tation. The guests returned home and came back the next 
day with more food, enough for a week longer. On that day 
Issetibbeha began to smell; they could smell him for a long 
way up and down the bottom when it got hot toward noon 
and the wind blew. But they didn't capture the Negro on 
that day, nor on the next. It was about dusk on the sixth 
day when the couriers came up to the litter; they had found 
blood. "He has injured himself." 

"Not bad, I hope," Basket said. "We cannot send with 
Issetibbeha one who will be of no service to him." 

Red Leaves 337 

"Nor whom Issetibbeha himself will have to nurse and 
care for/' Berry said. 

"We do not know," the courier said. "He has hidden him- 
self. He has crept back into the swamp. We have left 

They trotted with the litter now. The place where the 
Negro had crept into the swamp was an hour away. In the 
hurry and excitement they had forgotten that Moketubbe 
still wore the slippeis; when they reached the place Moke- 
tubbe had fainted. They removed the slippers and brought 
him to. 

With dark, they formed a circle about the swamp. They 
squatted, clouded over with gnats and mosquitoes; the eve- 
ning star burned low and close down the west, and the 
constellations began to wheel overhead. "We will give him 
time," they said. "Tomorrow is just another name for today." 

"Yao. Let him have time." Then they ceased, and gazed 
as one into the darkness where the swamp lay. After a while 
the noise ceased, and soon the courier came out of the 

"He tried to break out." 

"But you turned him back?" 

"He turned back. We feared for a moment, the three of 
us. We could smell him creeping in the darkness, and we 
could smell something else, which we did not know. That 
was why we feared, until he told us. He said to slay him 
there, since it would be dark and he would not have to see 
the face when it came. But it was not that which we smelled; 
he told us what it was. A snake had struck him. That was 
two days ago. The arm swelled, and it smelled bad. But it 
was not that which we smelled then, because the swelling 
had gone down and his arm was no larger than that of a 
child. He showed us. We felt the arm, all of us did; it was 
no larger than that of a child. He said to give him a hatchet 

338 The Wilderness 

so he could chop the arm off. But tomorrow is today also." 

"Yao. Tomorrow is today." 

"We feared for a while. Then he went back into the 

"That is good." 

"Yao. We feared. Shall I tell the Man?" 

"I will see," Basket said. He went away. The courier 
squatted, telling again about the Negro. Basket returned. 
"The Man says that it is good. Return to your post." 

The courier crept away. They squatted about the litter; 
now and then they slept. Sometime after midnight the 
Negro waked them. He began to shout and talk to himself, 
his voice coming sharp and sudden out of the darkness, 
then he fell silent. Dawn came; a white crane flapped slowly 
across the jonquil sky. Basket was awake. "Let us go now," 
he said. "It is today." 

Two Indians entered the swamp, their movements noisy. 
Before they reached the Negro they stopped, because he 
began to sing. They could see him, naked and mud-caked, 
sitting on a log, singing. They squatted silently a short dis- 
tance away, until he finished. He was chanting something 
in his own language, his face lifted to the rising sun. His 
voice was clear, full, with a quality wild and sad. "Let him 
have time," the Indians said, squatting, patient, waiting. He 
ceased and they approached. He looked back and up at 
them through the cracked mud mask. His eyes were blood- 
shot, his lips cracked upon his square short teeth. The mask 
of mud appeared to be loose on his face, as if he might have 
lost flesh since he put it there; he held his left arm close 
to his breast. From the elbow down it was caked and shape- 
less with black mud. They could smell him, a rank smell. 
He watched them quietly until one touched him on the 
arm. "Come," the Indian said. "You ran well. Do not be 

Red Leaves 339 


As THEY NEARED the plantation in the tainted bright morn- 
ing, the Negro's eyes began to roll a little, like those of a 
horse. The smoke from the cooking pit blew low along the 
earth and upon the squatting and waiting guests about the 
yard and upon the steamboat deck, in their bright, stiff, 
harsh finery; the women, the children, the old men. They 
had sent couriers along the bottom, and another on ahead, 
and Issetibbeha's body had already been removed to where 
the grave waited, along with the horse and the dog, though 
they could still smell him in death about the house where he 
had lived in life. The guests were beginning to move toward 
the grave when the bearers of Moketubbe's litter mounted 
the slope. 

The Negro was the tallest there, his high, close, mud- 
caked head looming above them all. He was breathing hard, 
as though the desperate effort of the six suspended and 
desperate days had catapulted upon him at once; although 
they walked slowly, his naked scarred chest rose and fell 
above the close-clutched left arm. He looked this way and 
that continuously, as if he were not seeing, as though sight 
never quite caught up with the looking. His mouth was open 
a little upon his big white teeth; he began to pant. The 
already moving guests halted, pausing, looking back, some 
with pieces of meat in their hands, as the Negro looked 
about at their faces with his wild, restrained, unceasing eyes. 

"Will you eat first?" Basket said. He had to say it twice. 

"Yes," the Negro said. "That's it. I want to eat." 

The throng had begun to press back toward the center; 
the word passed to the outermost: "He will eat first." 

They reached the steamboat. "Sit down," Basket said. 
The Negro sat on the edge of the deck. He was still panting, 
his chest rising and falling, his head ceaseless with its white 

34 Tbe Wilderness 

eyeballs, turning from side to side. It was as if the inability 
to see came from within, from hopelessness, not from 
absence of vision. They brought food and watched quietly 
as he tried to eat it. He put the food into his mouth and 
chewed it, but chewing, the half-masticated matter began 
to emerge from the corners of his mouth and to drool down 
his chin, onto his chest, and after a while he stopped chewing 
and sat there, naked, covered with dried mud, the plate on 
his knees, and his mouth filled with a mass of chewed food, 
open, his eyes wide and unceasing, panting and panting. 
They watched him, patient, implacable, waiting. 

"Come," Basket said at last. 

"It's water I want," the Negro said. "I want water." 

The well was a little way down the slope toward the 
quarters. The slope lay dappled with the shadows of noon, 
of that peaceful hour when, Issetibbeha napping in his chair 
and waiting for the noon meal and the long afternoon to 
sleep in, the Negro, the body servant, would be free. He 
would sit in the kitchen door then, talking with the women 
who prepared the food. Beyond the kitchen the lane between 
the quarters would be quiet, peaceful, with the women talk- 
ing to one another across the lane and the smoke of the 
dinner fires blowing upon the pickaninnies like ebony toys 
in the dust. 

"Come," Basket said. 

The Negro walked among them, taller than any. The 
guests were moving on toward where Issetibbeha and the 
horse and the dog waited. The Negro walked with his high 
ceaseless head, his panting chest. "Come," Basket said. "You 
wanted water." 

"Yes," the Negro said. "Ys." He looked back at the 
house, then down to the quarters, where today no fire 
burned, no face showed in any door, no pickaninny in the 
dust, panting. "It struck me here, raking me across this arm; 
once, twice, three times. I said, 'Ole, Grandfather.' " 

Red Leaves 341 

"Come now," Basket said. The Negro was still going 
through the motion of walking, his knee action high, his 
head high, as though he were on a treadmill. His eyeballs 
had a wild, restrained glare, like those of a horse. u You 
wanted water," Basket said. "Here it is." 

There was a gourd in the well. They dipped it full and 
gave it to the Negro, and they watched him try to drink. 
His eyes had not ceased as he tilted the gourd slowly against 
his caked face. They could watch his throat working and the 
bright water cascading from either side of the gourd, down 
his chin and breast. Then the water stopped. "Come," Basket 

"Wait," the Negro said. He dipped the gourd again and 
tilted it against his face, beneath his ceaseless eyes. Again 
they watched his throat working and the unswallowed water 
sheathing broken and myriad down his chin, channeling his 
caked chest. They waited, patient, grave, decorous, im- 
placable; clansman and guest and kin. Then the water ceased, 
though still the empty gourd tilted higher and higher, and 
still his black throat aped the vain motion of his frustrated 
swallowing. A piece of water-loosened mud carried away 
from his chest and broke at his muddy feet, and in the empty 
gourd they could hear his breath: ah-ah-ah. 

"Come," Basket said, taking the gourd from the Negro 
and hanging it back in the well. 

A Justice 


UNTIL GRANDFATHER DIED, we would go out to the farm 
every Saturday afternoon. We would leave home right after 
dinner in the surrey, I in front with Roskus, and Grand- 
father and Caddy and Jason in the back. Grandfather and 
Roskus would talk, with the horses going fast, because it was 
the best team in the county. They would carry the surrey 
fast along the levels and up some of the hills even. But this 
was in north Mississippi, and on some of the hills Roskus 
and I could smell Grandfather's cigar. 

The farm was four miles away. There was a long, low 
house in the grove, not painted but kept whole and sound by 
a clever carpenter from the quarters named Sam Fathers, 
and behind it the barns and smokehouses, and further still, 
the quarters themselves, also kept whole and sound by Sam 
Fathers. He did nothing else, and they said he was almost a 
hundred years old. He lived with the Negroes and they 
the white people; the Negroes called him a blue-gum 
called him a Negro. But he wasn't a Negro. That's what I'm 
going to tell about. 

When we got there, Mr. Stokes, the manager, would send 
a Negro boy with Caddy and Jason to the creek to fish, 
because Caddy was a girl and Jason was too little, but I 
wouldn't go with them. I would go to Sam Fathers' shop, 


344 The Wilderness 

where he would be making breast-yokes or wagon wheels, 
and I would always bring him some tobacco. Then he would 
stop working and he would fill his pipe he made them him- 
self, out of creek clay with a reed stem and he would tell 
me about the old days. He talked like a nigger that is, he 
said his words like niggers do, but he didn't say the same 
words and his hair was nigger hair. But his skin wasn't 
quite the color of a light nigger and his nose and his mouth 
and chin were not nigger nose and mouth and chin. And his 
shape was not like the shape of a nigger when he gets old. 
He was straight in the back, not tall, a little broad, and his 
face was still all the time, like he might be somewhere else 
all the while he was working or when people, even white 
people, talked to him, or while he talked to me. It was just 
the same all the time, like he might be away up on a roof 
by himself, driving nails. Sometimes he would quit work 
with something half-finished on the bench, and sit down and 
smoke. And he wouldn't jump up and go back to work when 
Mr. Stokes or even Grandfather came along. 

So I would give him the tobacco and he would stop work 
and sit down and fill his pipe and talk to me. 

"These niggers," he said. u They call me Uncle Blue-Gum. 
And the white folks, they call me Sam Fathers." 

* Isn't that your name?" I said. 

"No. Not in the old days. I remember. I remember how I 
never saw but one white man until I was a boy big as you 
are; a whisky trader that came every summer to the Planta- 
tion. It was the Man himself that named me. He didn't name 
me Sam Fathers, though." 

"The Man?" I said. 

"He owned the Plantation, the Negroes, my mammy too, 
He owned all the land that I knew of until I was grown. He 
was a Choctaw chief. He sold my mammy to your great- 
grandpappy. He said I didn't have to go unless I wanted to, 

A Justice 345 

because I was a warrior too then. He was the one who 
named me Had-Two-Fathers." 

"Had-Two-Fathers? " I said. "That's not a name. That's 
not anything." 

"It was my name once. Listen." 


THIS is HOW Herman Basket told it when I was big enough 
to hear talk. He said that when Doom came back from New 
Orleans, he brought this woman with him. He brought six 
black people, though Herman Basket said they already had 
more black people in the Plantation than they could find use 
for. Sometimes they would run the black men with dogs, 
like you would a fox or a cat or a coon. And then Doom 
brought six more when he came home from New Orleans. 
He said he won them on the steamboat, and so he had to 
take them. He got off the steamboat with the six black 
people, Herman Basket said, and a big box in which some- 
thing was alive, and the gold box of New Orleans salt about 
the size of a gold watch. And Herman Basket told how 
Doom took a puppy out of the box in which something was 
alive, and how he made a bullet of bread and a pinch of the 
salt in the gold box, and put the bullet into the puppy and 
the puppy died. 

That was the kind of a man that Doom was, Herman 
Basket said. He told how, when Doom got off the steamboat 
that night, he wore a coat with gold all over it, and he had 
three gold watches, but Herman Basket said that even after 
seven years, Doom's eyes had not changed. He said that 
Doom's eyes were just the same as before he went away, 
before his name was Doom, and he and Herman Basket and 
my pappy were sleeping on the same pallet and talking at 
night, as boys will. 

346 The Wilderness 

Doom's name was Ikkemotubbe then, and he was not born 
to be the Man, because Doom's mother's brother was the 
Man, and the Man had a son of his own, as well as a brother. 
But even then, and Doom no bigger than you are, Herman 
Basket said that sometimes the Man would look at Doom and 
he would say: "O Sister's Son, your eye is a bad eye, like 
the eye of a bad horse." 

So the Man was not sorry when Doom got to be a young 
man and said that he would go to New Orleans, Herman 
Basket said. The Man was getting old then. He used to like 
to play mumble-peg and to pitch horseshoes both, but now 
he just liked mumble-peg. So he was not sorry when Doom 
went away, though he didn't forget about Doom. Herman 
Basket said that each summer when the whisky-trader came, 
the Man would ask him about Doom. u He calls himself 
David Callicoat now," the Man would say. "But his name 
is Ikkemotubbe. You haven't heard maybe of a David Calli- 
coat getting drowned in the Big River, or killed in the white 
man's fight at New Orleans?" 

But Herman Basket said they didn't hear from Doom at all 
until he had been gone seven years. Then one day Herman 
Basket and my pappy got a written stick from Doom to meet 
him at the Big River. Because the steamboat didn't come up 
our river any more then. The steamboat was still in our river, 
but it didn't go anywhere any more. Herman Basket told 
how one day during the high water, about three years after 
Doom went away, the steamboat came and crawled up on 
a sand-bar and died. 

That was how Doom got his second name, the one before 
Doom. Herman Basket told how four times a year the steam- 
boat would come up our river, and how the People would go 
to the river and camp and wait to see the steamboat pass, and 
he said that the white man who told the steamboat where to 
swim was named David Callicoat. So when Doom told Her- 

A Justice 347 

man Basket and pappy that he was going to New Orleans, 
he said, "And I'll tell you something else. From now on, my 
name is not Ikkemotubbe. It's David Callicoat. And some 
day I'm going to own a steamboat, too." That was the kind 
of man that Doom was, Herman Basket said. 

So after seven years he sent them the written stick and 
Herman Basket and pappy took the wagon and went to meet 
Doom at the Big River, and Doom got off the steamboat with 
the six black people. "I won them on the steamboat," Doom 
said. "You and Craw-ford (my pappy's name was Crawfish- 
ford, but usually it was Craw-ford) can divide them." 

"I don't want them," Herman Basket said that pappy said. 

"Then Herman can have them all," Doom said. 

"I don't want them either," Herman Basket said. 

"All right," Doom said. Then Herman Basket said he 
asked Doom if his name was still David Callicoat, but in- 
stead of answering, Doom told one of the black people some- 
thing in the white man's talk, and the black man lit a pine 
knot. Then Herman Basket said they were watching Doom 
take the puppy from the box and make the bullet of bread 
and the New Orleans salt which Doom had in the little gold 
box, when he said that pappy said: 

"I believe you said that Herman and I were to divide these 
black people." 

Then Herman Basket said he saw that one of the black 
people was a woman. 

"You and Herman don't want them," Doom said. 

"I wasn't thinking when I said that," pappy said. "I will 
take the lot with the woman in it. Herman can have the 
other three." 

"I don't want them," Herman Basket said. 

"You can have four, then," pappy said. "I will take the 
woman and one other." 

"I don't want them," Herman Basket said. 

348 The Wilderness 

"I will take only the woman," pappy said. "You can have 
the other five." 

"I don't want them," Herman Basket said. 

"You don't want them, either/' Doom said to pappy. "You 
said so yourself." 

Then Herman Basket said that the puppy was dead. "You 
didn't tell us your new name," he said to Doom. 

"My name is Doom now," Doom said. "It was given me by 
a French chief in New Orleans. In French talking, Doo-um; 
in our talking, Doom." 

"What does it mean?" Herman Basket said. 

He said how Doom looked at him for a while. "It means 
the Man," Doom said. 

Herman Basket told how they thought about that. He said 
they stood there in the dark, with the other puppies in the 
box, the ones that Doom hadn't used, whimpering and scuf- 
fing, and the light of the pine knot shining on the eyeballs of 
the black people and on Doom's gold coat and on the puppy 
that had died. 

"You cannot be the Man," Herman Basket said. "You are 
only on the sister's side. And the Man has a brother and a 

"That's right," Doom said. "But if I were the Man, I 
would give Craw-ford those black people. I would give 
Herman something, too. For every black man I gave Craw- 
ford, I would give Herman a horse, if I were the Man." 

"Craw-ford only wants this woman," Herman Basket said. 

"I would give Herman six horses, anyway," Doom said. 
"But maybe the Man has already given Herman a horse." 

"No," Herman Basket said. "My ghost is still walking." 

It took them three days to reach the Plantation. They 
camped on the road at night. Herman Basket said that they 
did not talk. 

They reached the Plantation on the third day. He said 

4 Justice 349 

that the Man was not very glad to see Doom, even though 
Doom brought a present of candy for the Man's son. Doom 
had something for all his kinsfolk, even for the Man's 
srother. The Man's brother lived by himself in a cabin by 
the creek. His name was Sometimes- Wakeup. Sometimes 
the People took him food. The rest of the time they didn't 
see him. Herman Basket told how he and pappy went with 
Doom to visit Sometimes-Wakeup in his cabin. It was at 
light, and Doom told Herman Basket to close the door. 
Then Doom took the puppy from pappy and set it on the 
floor and made a bullet of bread and the New Orleans salt 
for Sometimes-Wakeup to see how it worked. When they 
[eft, Herman Basket said how Sometimes-Wakeup burned a 
stick and covered his head with the blanket. 

That was the first night that Doom was at home. On the 
next day Herman Basket told how the Man began to act 
strange at his food, and died before the doctor could get there 
and burn sticks. When the Willow-Bearer went to fetch the 
Man's son to be the Man, they found that he had acted 
strange and then died too. 

"Now Sometimes-Wakeup will have to be the Man," 
pappy said. 

So the Willow-Bearer went to fetch Sometimes-Wakeup 
to come and be the Man. The Willow-Bearer came back 
soon. "Sometimes-Wakeup does not want to be the Man," 
the Willow-Bearer said. "He is sitting in his cabin with his 
head in his blanket." 

"Then Ikkemotubbe will have to be the Man," pappy 

So Doom was the Man. But Herman Basket said that 
pappy's ghost would not be easy. Herman Basket said he 
told pappy to give Doom a little time. "I am still walking," 
Herman Basket said. 

"But this is a serious matter with me," pappy said. 

350 The Wilderness 

He said that at last pappy went to Doom, before the Man 
and his son had entered the earth, before the eating and 
the horse-racing were over. "What woman?" Doom said. 

"You said that when you were the Man," pappy said. 
Herman Basket said that Doom looked at pappy but that 
pappy was not looking at Doom. 

"I think you don't trust me," Doom said. Herman Basket 
said how pappy did not look at Doom. "I think you still 
believe that that puppy was sick," Doom said. "Think 
about it." 

Herman Basket said that pappy thought. 

"What do you think now?" Doom said. 

But Herman Basket said that pappy still did not look at 
Doom. "I think it was a well dog," pappy said. 


AT LAST the eating and the horse-racing were over and the 
Man and his son had entered the earth. Then Doom said, 
"Tomorrow we will go and fetch the steamboat." Herman 
Basket told how Doom had been talking about the steam- 
boat ever since he became the Man, and about how the 
House was not big enough. So that evening Doom said, "To- 
morrow we will go and fetch the steamboat that died in the 


Herman Basket said how the steamboat was twelve miles 
away, and that it could not even swim in the water. So the 
next morning there was no one in the Plantation except 
Doom and the black people. He told how it took Doom all 
that day to find the People. Doom used the dogs, and he 
found some of the People in hollow logs in the creek bottom. 
That night he made all the men sleep in the House. He 
kept the dogs in the House, too. 

Herman Basket told how he heard Doom and pappy talk- 
ing in the dark. "I don't think you trust me," Doom said. 

A Justice 351 

"I trust you," pappy said. 

"That is what I would advise," Doom said. 

"I wish you could advise that to my ghost," pappy said. 

The next morning they went to the steamboat. The 
women and the black people walked. The men rode in the 
wagons, with Doom following behind with the dogs. 

The steamboat was lying on its side on the sand-bar. When 
they came to it, there were three white men on it. "Now 
we can go back home," pappy said. 

But Doom talked to the white men. "Does this steamboat 
belong to you?" Doom said. 

"It does not belong to you," the white men said. And 
though they had guns, Herman Basket said they did not 
look like men who would own a boat. 

"Shall we kill them?" he said to Doom. But he said that 
Doom was still talking to the men on the steamboat. 

"What will vou take for it?" Doom said. 


"What will you give for it?" the white men said. 

"It is dead," Doom said. "It's not worth much." 

"Will you give ten black people?" the white men said. 

"All right," Doom said. "Let the black people who came 
with me from the Big River come forward." They came 
forward, the five men and the woman. "Let four more 
black people come forward." Four more came forward. 
"You are now to eat of the corn of those white men yonder," 
Doom said. "May it nourish you." The white men went 
away, the ten black people following them. "Now," Doom 
said, "let us make the steamboat get up and walk." 

Herman Basket said that he and pappy did not go into the 
river with the others, because pappy said to go aside and 
talk. They went aside. Pappy talked, but Herman Basket 
said that he said he did not think it was right to kill white 
men, but pappy said how they could fill the white men with 
rocks and sink them in the river and nobody would find 

352 The Wilderness 

them. So Herman Basket said they overtook the three white 
men and the ten black people, then they turned back toward 
the boat. Just before they came to the steamboat, pappy 
said to the black men: "Go on to the Man. Go and help 
make the steamboat get up and walk. I will take this woman 
on home." 

"This woman is my wife," one of the black men said. "I 
want her to stay with me." 

"Do you want to be arranged in the river with rocks in 
your inside too?" pappy said to the black man. 

"Do you want to be arranged in the river yourself?" the 
black man said to pappy. "There are two of you, and nine 
of us." 

Herman Basket said that pappy thought. Then pappy 
said, "Let us go to the steamboat and help the Man." 

They went to the steamboat. But Herman Basket said 
that Doom did not notice the ten black people until it was 
time to return to the Plantation. Herman Basket told how 
Doom looked at the black people, then looked at pappy. 
"It seems that the white men did not want these black 
people," Doom said. 

"So it seems," pappy said. 

"The white men went away, did they?" Doom said. 

"So it seems," pappy said. 

Herman Basket told how every night Doom would make 
all the men sleep in the House, with the dogs in the House 
too, and how each morning they would return to the steam- 
boat in the wagons. The wagons would not hold everybody, 
so after the second day the women stayed at home. But it 
was three days before Doom noticed that pappy was staying 
at home too. Herman Basket said that the woman's husband 
may have told Doom. "Craw-ford hurt his back lifting the 
steamboat/' Herman Basket said he told Doom. "He said 

A Justice 353 

he would stay at the Plantation and sit with his feet in the 
Hot Spring so that the sickness in his back could return to 
the earth." 

"That is a good idea," Doom said. "He has been doing 
this for three days, has he? Then the sickness should be down 
in his legs by now." 

When they returned to the Plantation that night, Doom 
sent for pappy. He asked pappy if the sickness had moved. 
Pappy said how the sickness moved very slow. "You must 
sit in the Spring more," Doom said. 

"That is what I think," pappy said. 

"Suppose you sit in the Spring at night too," Doom said. 

"The night air will make it worse," pappy said. 

"Not with a fire there," Doom said. "I will send one of 
the black people with you to keep the fire burning." 

"Which one of the black people?" pappy said. 

"The husband of the woman which I won on the steam- 
boat," Doom said. 

"I think my back is better," pappy said. 

"Let us try it," Doom said. 

"I know my back is better," pappy said. 

"Let us try it, anyway," Doom said. Just before dark 
Doom sent four of the People to fix pappy and the black 
man at the Spring. Herman Basket said the People returned 
quickly. He said that as they entered the House, pappy 
entered also. 

"The sickness began to move suddenly," pappy said. "It 
has reached my feet since noon today." 

"Do you think it will be gone by morning?" Doom said. 

"I think so," pappy said. 

"Perhaps you had better sit in the Spring tonight and 
make sure," Doom said. 

"I know it will be gone by morning," pappy said. 

354 The Wilderness 


WHEN IT GOT to be summer, Herman Basket said that the 
steamboat was out of the river bottom. It had taken them 
five months to get it out of the bottom, because they had to 
cut down the trees to make a path for it. But now he said 
the steamboat could walk faster on the logs. He told how 
pappy helped. Pappy had a certain place on one of the ropes 
near the steamboat that nobody was allowed to take, Herman 
Basket said. It was just under the front porch of the steam- 
boat where Doom sat in his chair, with a boy with a branch 
to shade him and another boy with a branch to drive away 
the flying beasts. The dogs rode on the boat too. 

In the summer, while the steamboat was still walking, Her- 
man Basket told how the husband of the woman came to 
Doom again. "I have done what I could for you," Doom 
said. "Why don't you go to Craw-ford and adjust this matter 

The black man said that he had done that. He said that 
pappy said to adjust it by a cock-fight, pappy's cock against 
the black man's, the winner to have the woman, the one 
who refused to fight to lose by default. The black man said 
he told pappy he did not have a cock, and that pappy said 
that in that case the black man lost by default and that the 
woman belonged to pappy. "And what am I to do?" the 
black man said. 

Doom thought. Then Herman Basket said that Doom 
called to him and asked him which was pappy's best cock 
and Herman Basket told Doom that pappy had only one. 
"That black one?" Doom said. Herman Basket said he told 
Doom that was the one. "Ah," Doom said. Herman Basket 
told how Doom sat in his chair on the porch of the steam- 
boat while it walked, looking down at the People and 
the black men pulling the ropes, making the steamboat walk. 

A Justice 355 

"Go and tell Craw-ford you have a cock," Doom said to 
the black man. "Just tell him you will have a cock in the 
pit. Let it be tomorrow morning. We will let the steamboat 
sit down and rest." The black man went away. Then Her- 
man Basket said that Doom was looking at him, and that 
he did not look at Doom. Because he said there was but 
one better cock in the Plantation than pappy's, and that 
one belonged to Doom. "I think that that puppy was not 
sick," Doom said. "What do you think?" 

Herman Basket said that he did not look at Doom. "That 
is what I think," he said. 

"That is what I would advise," Doom said. 

Herman Basket told how the next day the steamboat sat 
and rested. The pit was in the stable. The People and the 
black people were there. Pappy had his cock in the pit. Then 
the black man put his cock into the pit. Herman Basket said 
that pappy looked at the black man's cock. 

"This cock belongs to Ikkemotubbe," pappy said. 

"It is his," the People told pappy. "Ikkemotubbe gave it 
to him with all to witness." 

Herman Basket said that pappy had already picked up his 
cock. "This is not right," pappy said. "We ought not to let 
him risk his wife on a cock-fight." 

"Then you withdraw?" the black man said. 

"Let me think," pappy said. He thought. The People 
watched. The black man reminded pappy of what he had 
said about defaulting. Pappy said he did not mean to say 
that and that he withdrew it. The People told him that he 
could only withdraw by forfeiting the match. Herman 
Basket said that pappy thought again. The People watched. 
"All right," pappy said. "But I am being taken advantage of." 

The cocks fought. Pappy's cock fell. Pappy took it up 
quickly. Herman Basket said it was like pappy had been wait- 
ing for his cock to fall so he could pick it quickly up. "Wait," 

356 The Wilderness 

he said. He looked at the People. "Now they have fought. 
Isn't that true?" The People said that it was true. "So that 
settles what I said about forfeiting." 

Herman Basket said that pappy began to get out of the pit. 

"Aren't you going to fight?" the black man said. 

"I don't think this will settle anything," pappy said. "Do 

Herman Basket told how the black man looked at pappy. 
Then he quit looking at pappy. He was squatting. Herman 
Basket said the People looked at the black man looking at: 
the earth between his feet. They watched him take up a clod 
of dirt, and then they watched the dust come out between 
the black man's fingers. "Do you think that this will settle 
anything?" pappy said. 

"No," the black man said. Herman Basket said that the 
People could not hear him very good. But he said that pappy 
could hear him. 

"Neither do I," pappy said. "It would not be right to risk 
your wife on a cock-fight." 

Herman Basket told how the black man looked up, with 
the dry dust about the fingers of his hand. He said the black 
man's eyes looked red in the dark pit, like the eyes of a fox. 
"Will you let the cocks fight again?" the black man said. 

"Do you agree that it doesn't settle anything?" pappy said. 

"Yes," the black man said. 

Pappy put his cock back into the ring. Herman Basket 
said that pappy's cock was dead before it had time to act 
strange, even. The black man's cock stood upon it and 
started to crow, but the black man struck the live cock away 
and he jumped up and down on the dead cock until it did 
not look like a cock at all, Herman Basket said. 

Then it was fall, and Herman Basket told how the steam- 
boat came to the Plantation and stopped beside the House 
and died again. He said that for two months they had been 

A Justice 357 

in sight of the Plantation, making the steamboat walk on the 
logs, but now the steamboat was beside the House and the 
House was big enough to please Doom. He gave an eating. 
It lasted a week. When it was over, Herman Basket told how 
the black man came to Doom a third time. Herman Basket 
said that the black man's eyes were red again, like those of 
a fox, and that they could hear his breathing in the room. 
"Come to my cabin," he said to Doom. "I have something 
to show you." 

"I thought it was about that time," Doom said. He looked 
about the room, but Herman Basket told Doom that pappy 
had just stepped out. "Tell him to come also," Doom said. 
When they came to the black man's cabin, Doom sent two 
of the People to fetch pappy. Then they entered the cabin. 
What the black man wanted to show Doom was a new man. 

"Look," the black man said. "You are the Man. You are 
to see justice done." 

"What is wrong with this man?" Doom said. 

"Look at the color of him," the black man said. He began 
to look around the cabin. Herman Basket said that his eyes 
went red and then brown and then red, like those of a fox. 
He said they could hear the black man's breathing. "Do I 
get justice?" the black man said. "You are the Man." 

"You should be proud of a fine yellow man like this," 
Doom said. Fie looked at the new man. "I don't see that 
justice can darken him any," Doom said. He looked about 
the cabin also. "Come forward, Craw-ford," he said. "This 
is a man, not a copper snake; he will not harm you." But 
Herman Basket said that pappy would not come forward. 
He said the black man's eyes went red and then brown and 
then red when he breathed. "Yao," Doom said, "this is not 
right. Any man is entitled to have his melon patch protected 
from these wild bucks of the woods. But first let us name this 
man." Doom thought. Herman Basket said the black man's 

358 The Wilderness 

eyes went quieter now, and his breath went quieter too. "We 
will call him Had-Two-Fathers," Doom said. 


SAM FATHERS lit his pipe again. He did it deliberately, rising 
and lifting between thumb and forefinger from his forge a 
coal of fire. Then he came back and sat down. It was getting 
late. Caddy and Jason had come back from the creek, and I 
could see Grandfather and Mr. Stokes talking beside the 
carriage, and at that moment, as though he had felt my gaze, 
Grandfather turned and called my name. 

"What did your pappy do then?" I said. 

"He and Herman Basket built the fence," Sam Fathers 
said. "Herman Basket told how Doom made them set two 
posts into the ground, with a sapling across the top of them. 
The nigger and pappy w r ere there. Doom had not told them 
about the fence then. Flerman Basket said it was just like 
when he and pappy and Doom were boys, sleeping on the 
same pallet, and Doom would wake them at night and make 
them get up and go hunting with him, or when he would 
make them stand up with him and fight with their fists, just 
for fun, until Herman Basket and pappy would hide from 

"They fixed the sapling across the two posts and Doom 
said to the nigger: 'This is a fence. Can you climb it? ' 

"Flerman Basket said the nigger put his hand on the 
sapling and sailed over it like a bird. 

"Then Doom said to pappy: 'Climb this fence.' 

" 'This fence is too high to climb/ pappy said. 

" 'Climb this fence, and I will give you the woman,' 
Doom said. 

"Herman Basket said pappy looked at the fencv . a while. 
'Let me go under this fence.' he said. 

A Justice 359 

" 'No,' Doom said. 

"Herman Basket told me how pappy began to sit down on 
the ground. 'It's not that I don't trust you,' pappy said. 

" 'We will build the fence this high,' Doom said. 

" 'What fence?' Herman Basket said. 

" 'The fence around the cabin of this black man,' Doom 

" 'I can't build a fence I couldn't climb,' pappy said. 

" 'Herman will help you,' Doom said. 

"Herman Basket said it was just like when Doom used to 
wake them and make them go hunting. He said the dogs 
found him and pappy about noon the next day, and that they 
began the fence that afternoon. He told me how they had 
to cut the saplings in the creek bottom and drag them in by 
hand, because Doom would not let them use the wagon. So 
sometimes one post would take them three or four days. 
'Never mind,' Doom said. 'You have plenty of time. And 
the exercise will make Craw-ford sleep at night.' 

"He told me how they worked on the fence all that winter 
and all the next summer, until after the whisky trader had 
come and gone. Then it was finished. He said that on the 
day they set the last post, the nigger came out of the cabin 
and put his hand on the top of a post (it was a palisade fence, 
the posts set upright in the ground) and flew out like a bird. 
'This is a good fence,' the nigger said. 'Wait,' he said. 'I have 
something to show you.' Herman Basket said he flew back 
over the fence again and went into the cabin and came back. 
Herman Basket said that he was carrying a new man and that 
he held the new man up so they could see it above the fence. 
'What do you think about this for color?' he said." 

Grandfather called me again. This time I got up. The sun 
was already down beyond the peach orchard. I was just 
twelve then, and to me the story did not seem to have got 
anywhere, to have had point or end. Yet I obeyed Grand- 

360 The Wilderness 

father's voice, not that I was tired of Sam Fathers' talking, 
but with that immediacy of children with which they flee 
temporarily something which they do not quite understand; 
that, and the instinctive promptness with which we all obeyed 
Grandfather, not from concern of impatience or reprimand, 
but because we all believed that he did fine things, that his 
waking life passed from one fine (if faintly grandiose) pic- 
ture to another. 

They were in the surrey, waiting for me. I got in; the 
horses moved at once, impatient too for the stable. Caddy 
had one fish, about the size of a chip, and she was wet to the 
waist. We drove on, the team already trotting. When we 
passed Mr. Stokes' kitchen we could smell ham cooking. 
The smell followed us on to the gate. When we turned onto 
the road home it was almost sundown. Then we couldn't 
smell the cooking ham any more. "What were you and Sam 
talking about?" Grandfather said. 

We went on, in that strange, faintly sinister suspension of 
twilight in which I believed that I could still see Sam Fathers 
back there, sitting on his wooden block, definite, immobile, 
and complete, like something looked upon after a long time 
in a preservative bath in a museum. That was it. I was just 
twelve then, and I would have to wait until I had passed on 
and through and beyond the suspension of twilight. Then I 
knew that I would know. But then Sam Fathers would be 

"Nothing, sir," I said. "We were just talking." 

A Courtship 

THIS is HOW it was in the old days, when old Issetibbeha was 
still the Man, and Ikkemotubbe, Issetibbeha's nephew, and 
David Hogganbeck, the white man who told the steamboat 
where to walk, courted Herman Basket's sister. 

The People all lived in the Plantation now. Issetibbeha 
and General Jackson met and burned sticks and signed a 
paper, and now a line ran through the woods, although you 
could not see it. It ran straight as a bee's flight among the 
woods, with the Plantation on one side of it, where Issetib- 
beha was the Man, and America on the other side, where 
General Jackson was the Man. So now when something 
happened on one side of the line, it was a bad fortune for 
some and a good fortune for others, depending on what the 
white man happened to possess, as it had always been. But 
merely by occurring on the other side of that line which 
you couldn't even see, it became what the white men called 
a crime punishable by death if they could just have found 
who did it. Which seemed foolish to us. There was one 
uproar which lasted off and on for a week, not that the 
white man had disappeared, because he had been the sort 
of white man which even other white men did not regret, 
but because of a delusion that he had been eaten. As if any 
man, no matter how hungry, would risk eating the flesh of 
a coward or thief in this country where even in \yjnter there 


362 The Wilderness 

is always something to be found to eat; this land for which, 
as Issetibbeha used to say after he had become so old that 
nothing more was required of him except to sit in the sun 
and criticise the degeneration of the People and the folly and 
rapacity of politicians, the Great Spirit has done more and 
man less than for any land he ever heard of. But it was a 
free country, and if the white man wished to make a rule 
even that foolish in their half of it, it was all right with us. 

Then Ikkemotubbe and David Hogganbeck saw Herman 
Basket's sister. As who did not, sooner or later, young men 
and old men too, bachelors and \vidowcrs too, and some who 
were not even widowers yet, who for more than one reason 
within the hut had no business looking anywhere else, 
though who is to say what age a man must reach or just 
how unfortunate he must have been in his youthful com- 
pliance, when he shall no longer look at the Herman Basket's 
sisters of this world and chew his bitter thumbs too, aihee. 
Because she walked in beauty. Or she sat in it, that is, be- 
cause she did not walk at all unless she had to. One of the 
earliest sounds in the Plantation would be the voice of 
Herman Basket's aunt crying to know why she had not risen 
and gone to the spring for water with the other girls, which 
she did not do sometimes until Herman Basket himself rose 
and made her, or in the afternoon crying to know why she 
did not go to the river with the other girls and women to 
wash, which she did not do very often either. But she did 
not need to. Anyone who looks as Herman Basket's sister 
did at seventeen and eighteen and nineteen does not need 
to wash. 

Then one day Ikkemotubbe saw her, who had known her 
all his life except during the first two years. He was Issetib- 
beha's sister's son. One night he got into the steamboat with 
David Hogganbeck and went away. And suns passed and 
then moons and then three high waters came and went and 

A Courtship 363 

old Issetibbeha had entered the earth a year and his son 
Moketubbe was the Man when Ikkemotubbe returned, 
named Doom now, with the white friend called the Chev- 
alier Sceur-Blonde de Vitry and the eight new slaves which 
we did not need either, and his gold-laced hat and cloak and 
the little gold box of strong salt and the wicker wine hamper 
containing the four other puppies which were still alive, and 
within two days Moketubbe 's little son was dead and within 
three Ikkemotubbe whose name was Doom now was him- 
self the Man. But he was not Doom yet. He was still just 
Ikkemotubbe, one of the young men, the best one, who rode 
the hardest and fastest and danced the longest and got the 
drunkest and was loved the best, by the young men and the 
girls and the older women too who should have had other 
things to think about. Then one day he saw Herman Basket's 
sister, whom he had known all his life except for the first 
two years. 

After Ikkemotubbe looked at her, my father and Owl-by- 
Night and Sylvester's John and the other young men looked 
away. Because he was the best of them and they loved him 
then while he was still just Ikkemotubbe. They would hold 
the other horse for him as, stripped to the waist, his hair 
and body oiled with bear's grease as when racing (though 
with honey mixed into the bear's grease now) and with only 
a rope hackamore and no saddle as when racing, Ikkemo- 
tubbe would ride on his new racing pony past the gallery 
where Herman Basket's sister sat shelling corn or peas into 
the silver wine pitcher which her aunt had inherited from 
her second cousin by marriage's great-aunt who was old 
David Colbert's wife, while Log-in-the-Creek (one of the 
young men too, though nobody paid any attention to him. 
He raced no horses and fought no cocks and cast no dice, 
and even when forced to, he would not even dance fast 
enough to keep out of the other dancers' way, and disgraced 

364 The Wilderness 

both himself and the others each time by becoming sick after 
only five or six horns of what was never even his whisky) 
leaned against one of the gallery posts and blew into his 
harmonica. Then one of the young men held the racing 
pony, and on his gaited mare now and wearing his flower- 
painted weskit and pigeon-tailed coat and beaver hat in 
which he looked handsomer than a steamboat gambler and 
richer even than the whisky-trader, Ikkemotubbe would ride 
past the gallery where Herman Basket's sister shelled another 
pod of peas into the pitcher and Log-in-the-Creek sat with 
his back against the post and blew into the harmonica. Then 
another of the young men would take the mare too and 
Ikkemotubbe would walk to Herman Basket's and sit on the 
gallery too in his fine clothes while Herman Basket's sister 
shelled another pod of peas perhaps into the silver pitcher 
and Log-in-the-Creek lay on his back on the floor, blowing 
into the harmonica. Then the whisky-trader came and 
Ikkemotubbe and the young men invited Log-in-the-Creek 
into the woods until they became tired of carrying him. And 
although a good deal wasted outside, as usual Log-in-the- 
Creek became sick and then asleep after seven or eight horns, 
and Ikkemotubbe returned to Herman Basket's gallery, 
where for a day or two at least he didn't have to not listen 
to the harmonica. 

Finally Owl-at-Night made a suggestion. "Send Herman 
Basket's aunt a gift." But the only thing Ikkemotubbe 
owned which Herman Basket's aunt didn't, was the new 
racing pony. So after a while Ikkemotubbe said, "So it seems 
I want this girl even worse than I believed," and sent Owl- 
at-Night to tie the racing pony's hackamore to Herman 
Basket's kitchen door handle. Then he thought how Herman 
Basket's aunt could not even always make Herman Basket's 
sister just get up and go to the spring for water. Besides, 
she was the second cousin by marriage to the grand-niece 

A Courtship 365 

of the wife of old David Colbert, the chief Man of all the 
Chickasaws in our section, and she looked upon Issetibbeha's 
whole family and line as mushrooms. 

"But Herman Basket has been known to make her get up 
and go to the spring," my father said. "And I never heard 
him claim that old Dave Colbert's wife or his wife's niece 
or anybody else's wife or niece or aunt was any better than 
anybody else. Give Herman the horse." 

"I can beat that," Ikkemotubbe said. Because there was no 
horse in the Plantation or America either between Natchez 
and Nashville whose tail Ikkemotubbe's new pony ever 
looked at. "I will run Herman a horse-race for his influence," 
he said. "Run," he told my father. "Catch Owl-at-Night 
before he reaches the house." So my father brought the 
pony back in time. But just in case Herman Basket's aunt 
had been watching from the kitchen window or something, 
Ikkemotubbe sent Owl-at-Night and Sylvester's John home 
for his crate of gamecocks, though he expected little from 
this since Herman Basket's aunt already owned the best 
cocks in the Plantation and won all the money every Sun- 
day morning anyway. And then Herman Basket declined 
to commit himself, so a horse-race would have been merely 
for pleasure and money. And Ikkemotubbe said how money 
could not help him, and with that damned girl on his mind 
day and night his tongue had forgotten the savor of pleasure. 
But the whisky-trader always came, and so for a day or two 
at least he wouldn't have to not listen to the harmonica. 

Then David Hogganbeck also looked at Herman Basket's 
sister, whom he too had been seeing once each year since the 
steamboat first walked to the Plantation. After a while even 
winter would be over and we would begin to watch the 
mark which David Hogganbeck had put on the landing to 
show us when the water would be tall enough for the steam- 
boat to walk in. Then the river would reach the mark, and 

3 66 The Wilderness 

sure enough within two suns the steamboat would cry in 
the Plantation. Then all the People men and women and 
children and dogs, even Herman Basket's sister because 
Ikkemotubbe would fetch a horse for her to ride and so 
only Log-in-the-Creek would remain, not inside the house 
even though it was still cold, because Herman Basket's aunt 
wouldn't let him stay inside the house where she would 
have to step over him each time she passed, but squatting in 
his blanket on the gallery with an old cooking-pot of fire 
inside the blanket with him would stand on the landing, 
to watch the upstairs and the smokestack moving among the 
trees and hear the puffing of the smokestack and its feet 
walking fast in the water too when it was not crying. Then 
we would begin to hear David Hogganbeck's fiddle, and 
then the steamboat would come walking up the last of the 
river like a race-horse, with the smoke rolling black and its 
feet flinging the water aside as a running horse flings dirt, 
and Captain Studenmare who owned the steamboat chewing 
tobacco in one window and David Hogganbeck playing his 
fiddle in the other, and between them the head of the boy 
slave who turned the wheel, who was not much more than 
half as big as Captain Studenmare and not even a third as 
big as David Hogganbeck. And all day long the trading 
would continue, though David Hogganbeck took little part 
in this. And all night long the dancing would continue, and 
David Hogganbeck took the biggest part in this. Because he 
was bigger than any two of the young men put together 
almost, and although you would not have called him a man 
built for dancing or running either, it was as if that very 
double size which could hold twice as much whisky as any 
other, could also dance twice as long, until one by one the 
young men fell away and only he was left. And there was 
horse-racing and eating, and although David Hogganbeck 
had no horses and did not ride one since no horse could 

A Courtship 367 

have carried him and run fast too, he would eat a match 
each year for money against any two of the young men 
whom the People picked, and David Hogganbeck always 
won. Then the water would return toward the mark he had 
made on the landing, and it would be time for the steamboat 
to leave while there was still enough water in the river for it 
to walk in. 

And then it did not go away. The river began to grow 
little, yet still David Hogganbeck played his fiddle on 
Herman Basket's gallery while Herman Basket's sister stirred 
something for cooking into the silver wine pitcher and 
Ikkemotubbe sat against a post in his fine clothes and his 
beaver hat and Log-in-the-Creek lay on his back on the 
floor with the harmonica cupped in both hands to his mouth, 
though you couldn't hear now whether he was blowing into 
it or not. Then you could see the mark which David Hog- 
ganbeck had marked on the landing while he still played his 
fiddle on Herman Basket's gallery where Ikkemotubbe had 
brought a rocking chair from his house to sit in until David 
Hogganbeck would have to leave in order to show the steam- 
boat the way back to Natchez. And all that afternoon the 
People stood along the landing and watched the steamboat's 
slaves hurling wood into its stomach for steam to make it 
walk; and during most of that night, while David Hoggan- 
beck drank twice as much and danced twice as long as even 
David Hogganbeck, so that he drank four times as much 
and danced four times as long as even Ikkemotubbe, even 
an Ikkemotubbe who at last had looked at Herman Basket's 
sister or at least had looked at someone else looking at her, 
the older ones among the People stood along the landing and 
watched the slaves hurling wood into the steamboat's stom- 
ach, not to make it walk but to make its voice cry while 
Captain Studenmare leaned out of the upstairs with the end 
of the crying-rope tied to the door-handle. And the next 

368 The Wilderness 

day Captain Studenmare himself came onto the gallery and 
grasped the end of David Hogganbeck's fiddle. 

"You're fired," he said. 

"All right," David Hogganbeck said. Then Captain 
Studenmare grasped the end of David Hogganbeck's fiddle. 

"We will have to go back to Natchez where I can get 
money to pay you off," he said. 

"Leave the money at the saloon," David Hogganbeck 
said. "I'll bring the boat back out next spring." 

Then it was night. Then Herman Basket's aunt came out 
and said that if they were going to stay there all night, at 
least David Hogganbeck would have to stop playing his 
fiddle so other people could sleep. Then she came out and 
said for Herman Basket's sister to come in and go to bed. 
Then Herman Basket came out and said, "Come on now, 
fellows. Be reasonable." Then Herman Basket's aunt came 
out and said that the next time she was going to bring Her- 
man Basket's dead uncle's shotgun. So Ikkemotubbe and 
David Hogganbeck left Log-in-the-Creek lying on the floor 
and stepped down from the gallery. "Goodnight," David 
Hogganbeck said. 

"I'll walk home with you," Ikkemotubbe said. So they 
walked across the Plantation to the steamboat. It was dark 
and there was no fire in its stomach now because Captain 
Studenmare was still asleep under Issetibbeha's back porch. 
Then Ikkemotubbe said, "Goodnight." 

"I'll walk home with you," David Hogganbeck said. So 
they walked back across the Plantation to Ikkemotubbe's 
house. But David Hogganbeck did not have time to say 
goodnight now because Ikkemotubbe turned as soon as they 
reached his house and started back toward the steamboat. 
Then he began to run, because David Hogganbeck still did 
not look like a man who could run fast. But he had not 
looked like a man who could dance a long time either, so 

A Courtship 369 

when Ikkemotubbe reached the steamboat and turned and 
ran again, he was only a little ahead of David Hogganbeck. 
And when they reached Ikkemotubbe's house he was still 
only a little ahead of David Hogganbeck when he stopped, 
breathing fast but only a little fast, and held the door open 
for David Hogganbeck to enter. 

"My house is not very much house," he said. "But it is 
yours." So they both slept in Ikkemotubbe's bed in his house 
that night. And the next afternoon, although Herman Bas- 
ket would still do no more than wish him success, Ikkemo- 
tubbe sent my father and Sylvester's John with his saddle 
mare for Herman Basket's aunt to ride on, and he and Her- 
man Basket ran the horse-race. And he rode faster than any- 
one had ever ridden in the Plantation. He won by lengths and 
lengths and, with Herman Basket's aunt watching, he made 
Herman Basket take all the money, as though Herman Bas- 
ket had won, and that evening he sent Owl-at-Night to tie 
the racing pony's hackamore to the door-handle of Herman 
Basket's kitchen. But that night Herman Basket's aunt did 
not even warn them. She came out the first time with Her- 
man Basket's dead uncle's gun, and hardly a moment had 
elapsed before Ikkemotubbe found out that she meant him 
too. So he and David Hogganbeck left Log-in-tiie-Creek 
lying on the gallery and they stopped for a moment at my 
father's house on the first trip between Ikkemotubbe's house 
and the steamboat, though when my father and Owl-at- 
Night finally found Ikkemotubbe to tell him that Herman 
Basket's aunt must have sent the racing pony far into the 
woods and hidden it because they had not found it yet, 
Ikkemotubbe and David Hogganbeck were both asleep in 
David Hogganbeck's bed in the steamboat. 

And the next morning the whisky-trader came, and that 
afternoon Ikkemotubbe and the young men invited Log-in- 
the-Creek into the woods and my father and Sylvester's 

370 The Wilderness 

John returned for the whisky-trader's buckboard and, with 
my father and Sylvester's John driving the buckboard and 
Log-in-the-Creek lying on his face on top of the little house 
on the back of the buckboard where the whisky-kegs rode 
and Ikkemotubbe standing on top of the little house, wear- 
ing the used general's coat which General Jackson gave 
Issetibbeha, with his arms folded and one foot advanced 
onto Log-in-the-Creek 's back, they rode slow past the gal- 
lery where David Hogganbeck played his fiddle while 
Herman Basket's sister stirred something for cooking into 
the silver wine pitcher. And when my father and Owl-at- 
Night found Ikkemotubbe that night to tell him they still 
had not found where Herman Basket's aunt had hidden the 
pony, Ikkemotubbe and David Hogganbeck were at Ikke- 
motubbe's house. And the next afternoon Ikkemotubbe and 
the young men invited David Hogganbeck into the woods 
and it was a long time this time and when they came out, 
David Hogganbeck was driving the buckboard while the 
legs of Ikkemotubbe and the other young men dangled from 
the open door of the little whisky-house like so many strands 
of vine hay and Issetibbeha's general's coat was tied by its 
sleeves about the neck of one of the mules. And nobody 
hunted for the racing pony that night, and when Ikkemo- 
tubbe waked up, he didn't know at first even where he was. 
And he could already hear David Hogganbeck's fiddle be- 
fore he could move aside enough of the young men to get 
out of the little whisky-house, because that night neither 
Herman Basket's aunt nor Herman Basket and then finally 
Herman Basket's dead uncle's gun could persuade David 
Hogganbeck to leave the gallery and go away or even to 
stop playing the fiddle. 

So the next morning Ikkemotubbe and David Hoggan- 
beck squatted in a quiet place in the woods while the young 
men, except Sylvester's John and Owl-by-Night who were 

A Courtship 371 

still hunting for the horse, stood on guard. "We could fight 
for her then," David Hogganbeck said. 

"We could fight for her," Ikkemotubbe said. "But white 
men and the People fight differently. We fight with knives, 
to hurt good and to hurt quickly. That would be all right, 
if I were to lose. Because I would wish to be hurt good. 
But if I am to win, I do not wish you to be hurt good. If 
I am to truly win, it will be necessary for you to be there 
to see it. On the day of the wedding, I wish you to be 
present, or at least present somewhere, not lying wrapped 
in a blanket on a platform in the woods, waiting to enter the 
earth." Then my father said how Ikkemotubbe put his hand 
on David Hogganbeck's shoulder and smiled at him. "If that 
could satisfy me, we would not be squatting here discussing 
what to do. I think you see that." 

"I think I do," David Hogganbeck said. 

Then my father said how Ikkemotubbe removed his hand 
from David Hogganbeck's shoulder. "And we have tried 
whisky," he said. 

"We have tried that," David Hogganbeck said. 

"Even the racing pony and the general's coat failed me," 
Ikkemotubbe said. "I had been saving them, like a man with 
two hole-cards." 

"I wouldn't say that the coat completely failed," David 
Hogganbeck said. "You looked fine in it." 

"Aihee," Ikkemotubbe said. "So did the mule." Then my 
father said how he was not smiling either as he squatted 
beside David Hogganbeck, making little marks in the earth 
with a twig. "So there is just one other thing," he said. "And 
I am already beaten at that too before we start." 

So all that day they ate nothing. And that night when 
they left Log-in-the-Creek lying on Herman Basket's gal- 
lery, instead of merely walking for a while and then running 
for a while back and forth between Ikkemotubbe's house 

372 The Wilderness 

and the steamboat, they began to run as soon as they left 
Herman Basket's. And when they lay down in the woods 
to sleep, it was where they would not only be free of temp- 
tation to eat but of opportunity too, and from which it 
would take another hard run as an appetiser to reach the 
Plantation for the match. Then it was morning and they ran 
back to where my father and the young men waited on 
horses to meet them and tell Ikkemotubbe that they still 
hadn't found where under the sun Herman Basket's aunt 
could have hidden the pony and to escort them back across 
the Plantation to the race-course, where the People waited 
around the table, with Ikkemotubbe's rocking chair from 
Herman Basket's gallery for Issetibbeha and a bench behind 
it for the judges. First there was a recess while a ten-year-old 
boy ran once around the race-track, to let them recover 
breath. Then Ikkemotubbe and David Hogganbeck took 
their places on either side of the table, facing each other 
across it, and Owl-at-Night gave the word. 

First, each had that quantity of stewed bird chitterlings 
which the other could scoop with two hands from the pot. 
Then each had as many wild turkey eggs as he was old, 
Ikkemotubbe twenty-two and David Hogganbeck twenty- 
three, though Ikkemotubbe refused the advantage and said 
he would eat twenty-three too. Then David Hogganbeck 
said he was entitled to one more than Ikkemotubbe so he 
would eat twenty-four, until Issetibbeha told them both to 
hush and get on, and Owl-at-Night tallied the shells. Then 
there was the tongue, paws and melt of a bear, though for 
a little while Ikkemotubbe stood and looked at his half of 
it while David Hogganbeck was already eating. And at the 
half-way he stopped and looked at it again while David 
Hogganbeck was finishing. But it was all right; there was a 
faint smile on his face such as the young men had seen on 
it at the end of a hard running when he was going from 

A Courtship 373 

now on not on the fact that he was still alive but on the 
fact that he was Ikkemotubbe. And he went on, and Owl- 
at-Night tallied the bones, and the women set the roasted 
shote on the table and Ikkemotubbe and David Hogganbeck 
moved back to the tail of the shote and faced one another 
across it and Owl-at-Night had even given the word to start 
until he gave another word to stop. "Give me some water," 
Ikkemotubbe said. So my father handed him the gourd and 
he even took a swallow. But the water returned as though 
it had merely struck the back of his throat and bounced, 
and Ikkemotubbe put the gourd down and raised the tail of 
his shirt before his bowed face and turned and walked away 
as the People opened aside to let him pass. 

And that afternoon they did not even go to the quiet place 
in the woods. They stood in Ikkemotubbe's house while my 
father and the others stood quietly too in the background. 
My father said that Ikkemotubbe was not smiling now. "I 
was right yesterday," he said. "If I am to lose to thee, we 
should have used the knives. You see," he said, and now my 
father said he even smiled again, as at the end of the long 
hard running when the young men knew that he would go 
on, not because he was still alive but because he was Ikkemo- 
tubbe; " you see, although I have lost, I still cannot recon- 

"I had you beat before we started," David Hogganbeck 
said. "We both knew that." 

"Yes," Ikkemotubbe said. "But I suggested it." 

"Then what do you suggest now?" David Hogganbeck 
said. And now my father said how they loved David Hog- 
ganbeck at that moment 'as they loved Ikkemotubbe; that 
they loved them both at that moment while Ikkemotubbe 
stood before David Hogganbeck with the smile on his face 
and his right hand flat on David Hogganbeck's chest, be- 
cause there were men in those days. 

374 The Wilderness 

"Once more then, and then no more," Ikkemotubbe said. 
"The Cave." Then he and David Hogganbeck stripped and 
my father and the others oiled them, body and hair too, 
with bear's grease mixed with mint, not just for speed this 
time but for lasting too, because the Cave was a hundred 
and thirty miles away, over in the country of old David 
Colbert a black hole in the hill which the spoor of wild 
creatures merely approached and then turned away and 
which no dog could even be beaten to enter and where the 
boys from among all the People would go to lie on their first 
Night-away-from-Fire to prove if they had the courage to 
become men, because it had been known among the People 
from a long time ago that the sound of a whisper or even the 
disturbed air of a sudden movement would bring parts of 
the roof down and so all believed that not even a very big 
movement or sound or maybe none at all at some time 
would bring the whole mountain into the cave. Then Ikke- 
motubbe took the two pistols from the trunk and drew the 
loads and reloaded them. "Whoever reaches the Cave first 
can enter it alone and fire his pistol," he said. "If he comes 
back out, he has won." 

"And if he does not come back out?" David Hogganbeck 

"Then you have won," Ikkemotubbe said. 

"Or you," David Hogganbeck said. 

And now my father said how Ikkemotubbe smiled again 
at David Hogganbeck. "Or me," he said. "Though I think 
I told you yesterday that such as that for me will not be 
victory." Then Ikkemotubbe put another charge of powder, 
with a wadding and bullet, into each of two small medicine 
bags, one for himself and one for David Hogganbeck, just 
in case the one who entered the Cave first should not lose 
quick enough, and, wearing only their shirts and shoes and 
each with his pistol and medicine bag looped on a cord 

A Courtship 375 

around his neck, thjey emerged from Ikkemotubbe's house 
and began to run. 

It was evening then. Then it was night, and since David 
Hogganbeck did not know the way, Ikkemotubbe continued 
to set the pace. But after a time it was daylight again and 
now David Hogganbeck could run by the sun and the land- 
marks which Ikkemotubbe described to him while they 
rested beside a creek, if he wished to go faster. So some- 
times David Hogganbeck would run in front and sometimes 
Ikkemotubbe, then David Hogganbeck would pass Ikkemo- 
tubbe as he sat beside a spring or a stream with his feet in 
the water and Ikkemotubbe would smile at David Hoggan- 
beck and wave his hand. Then he would overtake David 
Hogganbeck and the country was open now and they would 
run side by side in the prairies with his hand lying lightly 
on David Hogganbeck's shoulder, not on the top of the 
shoulder but lightly against the back of it until after a while 
he would smile at David Hogganbeck and draw ahead. But 
then it was sundown, and then it was dark again so Ikkemo- 
tubbe slowed and then stopped until he heard David Hog- 
ganbeck and knew that David Hogganbeck could hear him 
and then he ran again so that David Hogganbeck could fol- 
low the sound of his running. So when David Hogganbeck 
fell, Ikkemotubbe heard it and went back and found David 
Hogganbeck in the dark and turned him onto his back and 
found water in the dark and soaked his shirt in it and re- 
turned and wrung the water from the shirt into David Hog- 
ganbeck's mouth. And then it was daylight and Ikkemotubbe 
waked also and found a nest containing five unfledged birds 
and ate and brought the other three to David Hogganbeck 
and then he went on until he was just this side of where 
David Hogganbeck could no longer see him and sat down 
again until David Hogganbeck got up onto his feet, 

And he gave David Hogganbeck the landmarks for that 

376 The Wilderness 

day too, talking back to David Hogganbeck over his shoul- 
der as they ran, though David Hogganbeck did not need 
them because he never overtook Ikkemotubbe again. He 
never came closer than fifteen or twenty paces, although it 
looked at one time like he was. Because this time it was 
Ikkemotubbe who fell. And the country was open again so 
Ikkemotubbe could lie there for a long time and watch 
David Hogganbeck coming. Then it was sunset again, and 
then it was dark again, and he lay there listening to David 
Hogganbeck coming for a long time until it was time for 
Ikkemotubbe to get up and he did and they went on slowly 
in the dark with David Hogganbeck at least a hundred 
paces behind him, until he heard David Hogganbeck fall 
and then he lay down too. Then it was day again and he 
watched David Hogganbeck get up onto his feet and come 
slowly toward him and at last he tried to get up too but he 
did not and it looked like David Hogganbeck was going to 
come up with him. But he got up at last while David Hog- 
ganbeck was still four or five paces away and they went on 
until David Hogganbeck fell, and then Ikkemotubbe thought 
he was just watching David Hogganbeck fall until he found 
that he had fallen too but he got up onto his hands and knees 
and crawled still another ten or fifteen paces before he too 
lay down. And there in the sunset before him was the hill 
in which the Cave was, and there through the night, and 
there still in the sunrise. 

So Ikkemotubbe ran into the Cave first, with his pistol 
already cocked in his hand. He told how he stopped perhaps 
for a second at the entrance, perhaps to look at the sun 
again or perhaps just to see where David Hogganbeck had 
stopped. But David Hogganbeck was running too and he 
was still only that fifteen or twenty paces behind, and be- 
sides, because of that damned sister of Herman Basket's, 
there had been no light nor heat either in that sun for moon? 

A Courtship 377 

and moons. So he ran into the Cave and turned and saw 
David Hogganbeck also running into the Cave and he cried, 
"Back, fool!" But David Hogganbeck still ran into the Cave 
even as Ikkemotubbe pointed his pistol at the roof and fired. 
And there was a noise, and a rushing, and a blackness and a 
dust, and Ikkemotubbe told how he thought, Aihec. It 
comes. But it did not, and even before the blackness he saw 
David Hogganbeck cast himself forward onto his hands and 
knees, and there was not a complete blackness either because 
he could see the sunlight and air and day beyond the tunnel 
of David Hogganbeck's arms and legs as, still on his hands 
and knees, David Hogganbeck held the fallen roof upon 
his back. "Hurry," David Hogganbeck said. "Between my 
legs. I can't " 

"Nay, brother," Ikkemotubbe said. "Quickly thyself, 
before it crushes thee. Crawl back." 

"Hurry," David Hogganbeck said behind his teeth. 
"Hurry, damn you." And Ikkemotubbe did, and he remem- 
bered David Hogganbeck's buttocks and legs pink in the 
sunrise and the slab of rock which supported the fallen roof 
pink in the sunrise too across David Hogganbeck's back. 
But he did not remember where he found the pole nor how 
he carried it alone into the Cave and thrust it into the hole 
beside David Hogganbeck and stooped his own back under 
it and lifted until he knew that some at least of the weight 
of the fallen roof was on the pole. 

"Now," he said. "Quickly." 

"No," David Hogganbeck said. 

"Quickly, brother," Ikkemotubbe said. "The weight is 
off thee." 

"Then I can't move," David Hogganbeck said. But Ikke- 
motubbe couldn't move either, because now he had to hold 
the fallen roof up with his back and legs. So he reached one 
hand and grasped David Hogganbeck by the meat and 

378 The Wilderness 

jerked him backward out of the hole until he lay face-down 
upon the earth. And maybe some of the weight of the fallen 
roof was on the pole before, but now all of the weight was 
on it and Ikkemotubbe said how he thought, This time surely 
aihee. But it was the pole and not his back which snapped 
and flung him face-down too across David Hogganbeck like 
two flung sticks, and a bright gout of blood jumped out of 
David Hogganbeck's mouth. 

But by the second day David Hogganbeck had quit 
vomiting blood, though Ikkemotubbe had run hardly forty 
miles back toward the Plantation when my father met him 
with the horse for David Hogganbeck to ride. Presently my 
father said, "I have a news for thee." 

"So you found the pony," Ikkemotubbe said. "All right. 
Come on. Let's get that damned stupid fool of a white 
man " 

"No, wait, my brother," my father said. "I have a news 
for thee." 

And presently Ikkemotubbe said, "All right." 

But when Captain Studenmare borrowed Issetibbeha's 
wagon to go back to Natchez in, he took the steamboat 
slaves too. So my father and the young men built a fire in 
the steamboat's stomach to make steam for it to walk, while 
David Hogganbeck sat in the upstairs and drew the crying- 
rope from time to time to see if the steam was strong enough 
yet, and at each cry still more of the People came to the 
landing until at last all the People in the Plantation except 
old Issetibbeha perhaps stood along the bank to watch the 
young men hurl wood into the steamboat's stomach: a 
thing never before seen in our Plantation at least. Then the 
steam was strong and the steamboat began to walk and then 
the People began to walk too beside the steamboat, watch- 
ing the young men for a while then Ikkemotubbe and David 
Hogganbeck for a while as the steamboat walked out of the 
Plantation where hardly seven suns ago Ikkemotubbe and 

A Courtship 379 

David Hogganbeck would sit all day long and half the night 
too until Herman Basket's aunt would come out with Her- 
man Basket's dead uncle's gun, on the gallery of Herman 
Basket's house while Log-in-the-Creek lay on the floor with 
his harmonica cupped to his mouth and Log-in-the-Creek's 
wife shelled corn or peas into old Dave Colbert's wife's 
grand-niece's second cousin by marriage's wine pitcher. 
Presently Ikkemotubbe was gone completely away, to be 
gone a long time before he came back named Doom, with 
his new white friend whom no man wished to love either 
and the eight more slaves which we had no use for either 
because at times someone would have to get up and walk 
somewhere to find something for the ones we already owned 
to do, and the fine gold- trimmed clothes and the little gold 
box of salt which caused the other four puppies to become 
dead too one after another, and then anything else which 
happened to stand between Doom and what he wanted. But 
he was not quite gone yet. He was just Ikkemotubbe yet, 
one of the young men, another of the young men who loved 
and was not loved in return and could hear the words and 
see the fact, yet who, like the young men who had been 
before him and the ones who would come after him, still 
could not understand it. 

"But not for her!" Ikkemotubbe said. "And not even 
because it was Log-in-the-Creek. Perhaps they are for my- 
self: that such a son as Log-in-the-Creek could cause them 
to wish to flow." 

"Don't think about her," David Hogganbeck said. 

"I don't. I have already stopped. See?" Ikkemotubbe said 
while the sunset ran down his face as if it had already been 
rain instead of light when it entered the window. "There 
was a wise man of ours who said once how a woman's fancy 
is like a butterfly which, hovering from flower to flower, 
pauses at the last as like as not where a horse has stood." 

"There was a wise man of ours named Solomon who often 

380 The Wilderness 

said something of that nature too," David Hogganbeck said. 
"Perhaps there is just one wisdom for all men, no matter 
who speaks it." 

"Aihee. At least, for all men one same heart-break.^ 
Ikkemotubbe said. Then he drew the crying-rope, because 
the boat was now passing the house where Log-in-the-Creek 
and his wife lived, and now the steamboat sounded like it 
did the first night while Captain Studenmare still thought 
David Hogganbeck would come and show it the way back 
to Natchez, until David Hogganbeck made Ikkemotubbe 
stop. Because they would need the steam because the steam- 
boat did not always walk. Sometimes it crawled, and each 
time its feet came up there was mud on them, and sometimes 
it did not even crawl until David Hogganbeck drew the 
crying-rope as the rider speaks to the recalcitrant horse to 
remind it with his voice just who is up. Then it crawled 
again and then it walked again, until at last the People could 
no longer keep up, and it cried once more beyond the last 
bend and then there was no longer either the black shapes 
of the young men leaping to hurl wood into its red stomach 
or even the sound of its voice in the Plantation or the night. 
That's how it was in the old days. 


THE PRESIDENT STOOD motionless at the door of the Dressing 
Room, fully dressed save for his boots. It was half-past six in 
the morning and it was snowing; already he had stood for an 
hour at the window, watching the snow. Now he stood just 
inside the door to the corridor, utterly motionless in his 
stockings, stooped a little from his lean height as though lis- 
tening, on his face an expression of humorless concern, since 
humor had departed from his situation and his view of it 
almost three weeks before. Hanging from his hand, low 
against his flank, was a hand mirror of elegant French design, 
such as should have been lying upon a lady's dressing table: 
certainly at this hour of a February day. 

At last he put his hand on the knob and opened the door 
infinitesimally; beneath his hand the door crept by inches and 
without any sound; still with that infinitesimal silence he put 
his eye to the crack and saw, lying upon the deep, rich pile 
of the corridor carpet, a bone. It was a cooked bone, a rib; 
to it still adhered close shreds of flesh holding in mute and 
overlapping halfmoons the marks of human teeth. Now that 
the door was open he could hear the voices too. Still without 
any sound, with that infinite care, he raised and advanced the 
mirror. For an instant he caught his own reflection in it and 
he paused for a time and with a kind of cold unbelief he 
examined his own face the face of the shrewd and coura- 

382 The Wilderness 

geous fighter, of that wellnigh infallible expert in the antici- 
pation of and controlling of man and his doings, overlaid 
now with the baffled helplessness of a child. Then he slanted 
the glass a little further until he could see the corridor re- 
flected in it. Squatting and facing one another across the 
carpet as across a stream of water were two men. He did not 
know the faces, though he knew the Face, since he had 
looked upon it by day and dreamed upon it by night for 
three weeks now. It was a squat face, dark, a little flat, a little 
Mongol; secret, decorous, impenetrable, and grave. He had 
seen it repeated until he had given up trying to count it or 
even estimate it; even now, though he could see the two men 
squatting before him and could hear the two quiet voices, it 
seemed to him that in some idiotic moment out of attenuated 
sleeplessness and strain he looked upon a single man facing 
himself in a mirror. 

They wore beaver hats and new frock coats; save for the 
minor detail of collars and waistcoats they were impeccably 
dressed though a little early for the forenoon of the time, 
down to the waist. But from here down credulity, all sense 
of fitness and decorum, was outraged. At a glance one would 
have said that they had come intact out of Pickwickian Eng- 
land, save that the tight, light-colored smallclothes ended not 
in Hessian boots nor in any boots at all, but in dark, naked 
feet. On the floor beside each one lay a neatly rolled bundle 
of dark cloth; beside each bundle in turn, mute toe and toe 
and heel and heel, as though occupied by invisible sentries 
facing one another across the corridor, sat two pairs of new 
boots. From a basket woven of whiteoak withes beside one 
of the squatting men there shot suddenly the snake-like head 
and neck of a game cock, which glared at the faint flash of 
the mirror with a round, yellow, outraged eye. It was from 
these that the voices came, pleasant, decorous, quiet: 

"That rooster hasn't done you much good up here." 

Lo! 383 

"That's true. Still, who knows? Besides, I certainly couldn't 
have left him at home, with those damned lazy Indians. I 
wouldn't find a feather left. You know that. But it is a nui- 
sance, having to lug this cage around with me day and night." 

"This whole business is a nuisance, if you ask me." 

"You said it. Squatting here outside this door all night long, 
without a gun or anything. Suppose bad men tried to get in 
during the night: what could we do? If anyone would want 
to get in. I don't." 

"Nobody does. It's for honor." 

"Whose honor? Yours? Mine? Frank Weddel's?" 

"White man's honor. You don't understand white people. 
They are like children: you have to handle them careful be- 
cause you never know what they are going to do next. So 
if it's the rule for guests to squat all night long in the cold 
outside this man's door, we'll just have to do it. Besides, 
hadn't you rather be in here than out yonder in the snow in 
one of those damn tents?" 

"You said it. What a climate. What a country. I wouldn't 
have this town if they gave it to me." 

"Of course you wouldn't. But that's white men: no ac- 
counting for taste. So as long as we are here, we'll have to try 
to act like these people believe that Indians ought to act. Be- 
cause you never know until afterward just what you have 
done to insult or scare them. Like this having to talk white 
talk all the time. . . ." 

The President withdrew the mirror and closed the door 
quietly. Once more he stood silent and motionless in the mid- 
dle of the room, his head bent, musing, baffled yet indom- 
itable: indomitable since this was not the first time that he 
had faced odds; baffled since he faced not an enemy in the 
open field, but was besieged within his very high and lonely 
office by them to whom he was, by legal if not divine appoint- 
ment, father. In the iron silence of the winter dawn he 

384 The Wilderness 

seemed, clairvoyant of walls, to be ubiquitous and one with 
the waking of the stately House. Invisible and in a kind of 
musing horror he seemed to be of each group of his Southern 
guests that one squatting without the door, that larger one 
like so many figures carved of stone in the very rotunda it- 
self of this concrete and visible apotheosis of the youthful 
Nation's pride in their new beavers and frock coats and 
woolen drawers. With their neatly rolled pantaloons under 
their arms and their virgin shoes in the other hand; dark, 
timeless, decorous and serene beneath the astonished faces and 
golden braid, the swords and ribbons and stars, of European 

The President said quietly, "Damn. Damn. Damn." He 
moved and crossed the room, pausing to take up his boots 
from where they sat beside a chair, and approached the op- 
posite door. Again he paused and opened this door too 
quietly and carefully, out of the three weeks' habit of expect- 
ant fatalism, though there was only his wife beyond it, 
sleeping peacefully in bed. He crossed this room in turn, car- 
rying his boots, pausing to replace the hand glass on the 
dressing table, among its companion pieces of the set which 
the new French Republic had presented to a predecessor, 
and tiptoed on and into the anteroom, where a man in a long 
cloak looked up and then rose, also in his stockings. They 
looked at one another soberly. "All clear?" the President said 
in a low tone. 

"Yes, General." 

"Good. Did you . . ." The other produced a second long, 
plain cloak. "Good, good," the President said. He swung the 
cloak about him before the other could move. "Now the . . ." 
This time the other anticipated him; the President drew the 
hat well down over his face. They left the room on tiptoe, 
carrying their boots in their hands. 

The back stairway was cold: their stockinged toes curled 

Lo! 385 

away from the treads, their vaporized breath wisped about 
their heads. They descended quietly and sat on the bottom 
step and put on their boots. 

Outside it still snowed; invisible against snow-colored sky 
and snow-colored earth, the flakes seemed to materialize with 
violent and silent abruptness against the dark orifice of the 
stables. Each bush and shrub resembled a white balloon 
whose dark shroud lines descended, light and immobile, to 
the white earth. Interspersed among these in turn and with a 
certain regularity were a dozen vaguely tent-shaped mounds, 
from the ridge of each of which a small column of smoke 
rose into the windless snow, as if the snow itself were in a 
state of peaceful combustion. The President looked at these, 
once, grimly. "Get along," he said. The other, his head low- 
ered and his cloak held closely about his face, scuttled on 
and ducked into the stable. Perish the day when these two 
words were applied to the soldier chief of a party and a na- 
tion, yet the President was so close behind him that their 
breaths made one cloud. And perish the day when the word 
flight were so applied, yet they had hardly vanished into the 
stable when they emerged, mounted now and already at a 
canter, and so across the lawn and past the snow-hidden tents 
and toward the gates which gave upon that Avenue in em- 
bryo yet but which in time would be the stage upon which 
each four years would parade the proud panoply of the 
young Nation's lusty man's estate for the admiration and 
envy and astonishment of the weary world. At the moment, 
though, the gates were occupied by those more immediate 
than splendid augurs of the future. 

"Look out," the other man said, reining back. They reined 
aside the President drew the cloak about his face and al- 
lowed the party to enter: the squat, broad, dark men dark 
against the snow, the beaver hats, the formal coats, the solid 
legs clad from thigh to ankle in woolen drawers. Among 

386 The Wilderness 

them moved three horses on whose backs were lashed the 
carcasses of six deer. They passed on, passing the two horse- 
men without a glance. 

"Damn, damn, damn," the President said; then aloud: 
"You found good hunting." 

One of the group glanced at him, briefly. He said cour- 
teously, pleasantly, without inflection, going on: "So so." 

The horses moved again. "I didn't see any guns," the other 
man said. 

"Yes," the President said grimly. "I must look into this, 
too. I gave strict orders. . . ." He said fretfully, "Damn. 
Damn. Do they carry their pantaloons when they go hunting 
too, do you know?" 

The Secretary was at breakfast, though he was not eating. 
Surrounded by untasted dishes he sat, in his dressing gown 
and unshaven; his expression too was harried as he perused 
the paper which lay upon his empty plate. Before the fire 
were two men one a horseman with unmelted snow still 
upon his cloak, seated on a wooden settle, the other standing, 
obviously the secretary to the Secretary. The horseman rose 
as the President and his companion entered. "Sit down, sit 
down," the President said. He approached the table, slipping 
off the cloak, which the secretary came forward and took. 
"Give us some breakfast," the President said. "We don't dare 
go home." He sat down; the Secretary served him in person. 
"What is it now?" the President said. 

"Do you ask?" the Secretary said. He took up the paper 
again and glared at it. "From Pennsylvania, this time." He 
struck the paper. "Maryland, New York, and now Pennsyl- 
vania; apparently the only thing that can stop them is the 
temperature of the water in the Potomac River." He spoke 
in a harsh, irascible voice. "Complaint, complaint, complaint: 
here is a farmer near Gettysburg. His Negro slave was in the 

Lo! 387 

barn, milking by lantern light after dark, when the Negro 
doubtless thought about two hundred, since the farmer esti- 
mated them at ten or twelve springing suddenly out of the 
darkness in plug hats and carrying knives and naked from the 
waist down. Result, item: One barn and loft of hay and cow 
destroyed when the lantern was kicked over; item: one able- 
bodied slave last seen departing from the scene at a high rate 
of speed, headed for the forest, and doubtless now dead of 
fear or by the agency of wild beasts. Debit the Government 
of the United States: for barn and hay, one hundred dollars; 
for cow, fifteen dollars; for Negro slave, two hundred dollars. 
He demands it in gold." 

"Is that so?" the President said, eating swiftly. "I suppose 
the Negro and the cow took them to be ghosts of Hessian 

"I wonder if they thought the cow was a deer," the horse- 
man said. 

"Yes," the President said. "That's something else I 
want. . . ." 

"Who wouldn't take them for anything on earth or under 
it?" the Secretary said. "The entire Atlantic seaboard north 
of the Potomac River overrun by creatures in beaver hats 
and frock coats and woolen drawers, frightening women and 
children, setting fire to barns and running off slaves, killing 
deer. . . ." 

"Yes," the President said. "I want to say a word about that, 
myself. I met a party of them returning as I came out. They 
had six deer. I thought I gave strict orders that they were not 
tD be permitted guns." 

Again it was the horseman who spoke. "They don't use 

"What?" the President said. "But I saw myself . . ." 

"No, sir. They use knives. They track the deer down and 
slip up on them and cut their throats." 

388 The Wilderness 

"What?" the President said. 

"All right, sir. I seen one of the deer. It never had a mark 
on it except its throat cut up to the neckbone with one lick." 

Again the President said, "Damn. Damn. Damn." Then the 
President ceased and the Soldier cursed steadily for a while. 
The others listened, gravely, their faces carefully averted, 
save the Secretary, who had taken up another paper. "If you 
could just persuade them to keep their pantaloons on," the 
President said. "At least about the House. . . ." 

The Secretary started back, his hair upcrested like an out- 
raged, iron-gray cockatoo. "I, sir? / persuade them?" 

"Why not? Aren't they subject to your Department? I'm 
just the President. Confound it, it's got to where my wife no 
longer dares leave her bedroom, let alone receive lady guests. 
How am I to explain to the French Ambassador, for instance, 
why his wife no longer dares call upon my wife because the 
corridors and the very entrance to the House are blocked by 
half-naked Chickasaw Indians asleep on the floor or gnawing 
at half-raw ribs of meat? And I, myself, having to hide away 
from my own table and beg breakfast, while the official rep- 
resentative of the Government has nothing to do but . . ." 

". . . but explain again each morning to the Treasury," the 
Secretary said in shrill rage, "why another Dutch farmer in 
Pennsylvania or New York must have three hundred dollars 
in gold in payment for the destruction of his farm and live- 
stock, and explain to the State Department that the capital is 
not being besieged by demons from hell itself, and explain to 
the War Department why twelve brand-new army tents 
must be ventilated at the top with butcher knives. . . ." 

"I noticed that, too," the President said mildly. "I had for- 
got it." 

"Ha. Your Excellency noted it," the Secretary said 
fiercely. "Your Excellency saw it and then forgot it. I have 
neither seen it nor been permitted to forget it. And now 

Lo! 389 

Your Excellency wonders why / do not persuade them to 
wear their pantaloons." 

"It does seem like they would," the President said fretfully. 
"The other garments seem to please them well enough. But 
there's no accounting for taste." He ate again. The Secretary 
looked at him, about to speak. Then he did not. As he 
watched the oblivious President a curious, secret expression 
came into his face; his gray and irate crest settled slowly, as 
if it were deflating itself. When he spoke now his tone was 
bland, smooth; now the other three men were watching the 
President with curious, covert expressions. 

"Yes," the Secretary said, "there's no accounting for taste. 
Though it does seem that when one has been presented with 
a costume as a mark of both honor and esteem, let alone 
decorum, and by the chief of a well, tribe . . ." 

"That's what I thought," the President said innocently. 
Then he ceased chewing and said "Eh?" sharply, looking up. 
The three lesser men looked quickly away, but the Secretary 
continued to watch the President with that bland, secret ex- 
pression. "What the devil do you mean?" the President said. 
He knew what the Secretary meant, just as the other three 
knew. A day or two after his guest had arrived without 
warning, and after the original shock had somewhat abated, 
the President had decreed the new clothing for them. He 
commanded, out of his own pocket, merchants and hatters as 
he would have commanded gunsmiths and bulletmakers in 
war emergency; incidentally he was thus able to estimate the 
number of them, the men at least, and within forty-eight 
hours he had transformed his guest's grave and motley train 
into the outward aspect of decorum at least. Then, two morn- 
ings after that, the guest the half Chickasaw, half French- 
man, the squat, obese man with the face of a Gascon brigand 
and the mannerisms of a spoiled eunuch and dingy lace at 
throat and wrist, who for three weeks now had doerged his 

390 The Wilderness 

waking hours and his sleeping dreams with bland inescapa- 
bility called formally upon him while he and his wife were 
still in bed at five o'clock in the morning, with two of his 
retainers carrying a bundle and what seemed to the President 
at least a hundred others, men, women and children, throng- 
ing quietly into the bedroom, apparently to watch him array 
himself in it. For it was a costume even in the shocked 
horror of the moment, the President found time to wonder 
wildly where in the capital Weddel (or Vidal) had found it 
a mass, a network, of gold braid frogs, epaulets, sash and 
sword held loosely together by bright green cloth and pre- 
sented to him in return. This is what the Secretary meant, 
while the President glared at him and while behind them both 
the three other men stood looking at the fire with immobile 
gravity. "Have your joke," the President said. "Have it 
quickly. Are you done laughing now?" 

"I laugh?" the Secretary said. "At what?" 

"Good," the President said. He thrust the dishes from him. 
"Then we can get down to business. Have you any docu- 
ments you will need to refer to?" 

The Secretary's secretary approached. "Shall I get the 
other papers, sir?" 

"Papers?" the Secretary said; once more his crest began to 
rise. "What the devil do I need with papers? What else have 
I thought about night and day for three weeks?" 

"Good; good," the President said. "Suppose you review 
the matter briefly, in case I have forgot anything else." 

"Your Excellency is indeed a fortunate man, if you have 
been able to forget," the Secretary said. From the pocket of 
his dressing gown he took a pair of steel-bowed spectacles. 
But he used them merely to glare again at the President in 
cockatoo-crested outrage. "This man, Weddel, Vidal whats 
ever his name is he and his family or clan or whatever they 
are claim to own the entire part of Mississippi which lies 

Lo! 391 

on the west side of this river in question. Oh, the grant is in 
order: that French father of his from New Orleans saw to 
that. Well, it so happens that facing his home or plantation 
is the only ford in about three hundred miles." 

"I know all this," the President said impatiently. "Nat- 
urally I regret now that there was any way of crossing the 
river at all. But otherwise I don't see . . ." 

"Neither did they," the Secretary said. "Until the white 
man came." 

"Ah," the President said. "The man who was mur . . ." 

The Secretary raised his hand. "Wait. He stayed about a 
month with them, ostensibly hunting, since he would be ab- 
sent all day long, though obviously what he was doing was 
assuring himself that there was no other ford close by. He 
never brought any game in; I imagine they laughed at that a 
good deal, in their pleasant way." 

"Yes," the President said. "Weddel must have found that 
very amusing." 

". . . or Vidal whatever his name is," the Secretary said 
fretfully. "He don't even seem to know or even to care what 
his own name is." 

"Get on," the President said. "About the ford." 

"Yes. Then one day, after a month, the white man offered 
to buy some of Weddel's land Weddel, Vidal Damn, 
da . . ." 

"Call him Weddel," the President said. 

". . . from Weddel. Not much; a piece about the size of this 

room, for which Weddel or V charged him about ten 

prices. Not out of any desire for usufruct, you understand; 
doubtless Weddel would have given the man the land or 
anyway wagered it on a game of mumble peg, it not having 
yet occurred to any of them apparently that the small plot 
which the man wanted contained the only available entrance 
to or exit from the ford. Doubtless the trading protracted it- 

392 The Wilderness 

self over several days or perhaps weeks, as a kind of game to 
while away otherwise idle afternoons or evenings, with the 
bystanders laughing heartily and pleasantly at the happy 
scene. They must have laughed a great deal, especially when 
the man paid Weddel's price; they must have laughed hugely 
indeed later when they watched the white man out in the 
sun, building a fence around his property, it doubtless not 
even then occurring to them that what the white man had 
done was to fence off the only entrance to the ford." 

"Yes," the President said impatiently. "But I still don't 
see . . ." 

Again the Secretary lifted his hand, pontifical, admonitory. 
"Neither did they; not until the first traveler came along and 
crossed at the ford. The white man had built himself a toll- 

"Oh," the President said. 

"Yes. And now it must have been, indeed, amusing for 
them to watch the white man sitting now in the shade he 
had a deerskin pouch fastened to a post for the travelers to 
drop their coins in, and the gate itself arranged so he could 
operate it by a rope from the veranda of his one-room domi- 
cile without having to even leave his seat; and to begin to 
acquire property among which was the horse." 

"Ah," the President said. "Now we are getting at it." 

"Yes. They got at it swiftly from then on. It seems that 
the match was between the white man's horse and this neph- 
ew's horse, the wager the ford and tollgate against a thousand 
or so acres of land. The nephew's horse lost. And that 
night . . ." 

"Ah," the President said. "I see. And that night the white 
man was mur . . ." 

"Let us say, died," the Secretary said primly, "since it is so 
phrased in the agent's report. Though he did add in a private 

Lo! 393 

communication that the white man's disease seemed to be a 
split skull. But that is neither here nor there." 

"No," the President said. "It's up yonder at the House." 
Where they had been for three weeks now, men, women, 
children and Negro slaves, coming for fifteen hundred miles 
in slow wagons since that day in late autumn when the 
Chickasaw agent had appeared to inquire into the white man's 
death. For fifteen hundred miles, across winter swamps and 
rivers, across the trackless eastern backbone of the continent, 
led by the bland, obese mongrel despot and patriarch in a 
carriage, dozing, his nephew beside him and one fat, ringed 
hand beneath its fall of soiled lace lying upon the nephew's 
knee to hold him in charge. "Why didn't the agent stop 
him?" the President said. 

"Stop him?" the Secretary cried. "He finally compromised 
to the extent of offering to allow the nephew to be tried on 
the spot, by the Indians themselves, he reserving only the in- 
tention of abolishing the tollgate, since no one knew the 
white man anyway. But no. The nephew must come to you, 
to be absolved or convicted in person." 

"But couldn't the agent stop the rest of them? Keep the 
rest of them from . . ." 

"Stop them?" the Secretary cried again. "Listen. He 
moved in there and lived Weddel, Vi Damn! damn!! 
Where was Yes. Weddel told him that the house was his; 
soon it was. Because how could he tell there were fewer faces 
present each morning than the night before? Could you have? 
Could you now?" 

"I wouldn't try," the President said. "I would just declare 
a national thanksgiving. So they slipped away at night." 

"Yes. Weddel and the carriage and a few forage wagons 
went first; they had been gone about a month before the 
agent realized that each morning the number which remained 
had diminished somewhat. They would load the wagons and 

394 The Wilderness 

go at night, by families grandparents, parents, children; 
slaves, chattels and dogs everything. And why not? Why 
should they deny themselves this holiday at the expense of 
the Government? Why should they miss, at the mere price 
of a fifteen-hundred-mile journey through unknown coun- 
try in the dead of winter, the privilege and pleasure of spend- 
ing a few weeks or months in new beavers and broadcloth 
coats and underdrawers, in the home of the beneficent White 

"Yes," the President said. He said: "And you have told him 
that there is no charge here against this nephew? " 

"Yes. And that if they will go back home, the agent him- 
self will declare the nephew innocent publicly, in whatever 
ceremony they think fit. And he said how was it he put it?" 
The Secretary now spoke in a pleasant, almost lilting tone, in 
almost exact imitation of the man whom he repeated: 'All 
we desire is justice. If this foolish boy has murdered a white 
man, I think that we should know it." 

"Damn, damn, damn," the President said. "All right. We'll 
hold the investigation. Get them down here and let's have it 
over with." 

"Here?" The Secretary started back. "In my house?" 

"Why not? I've had them for three weeks; at least you can 
have them for an hour." He turned to the companion. 
"Hurry. Tell them we are waiting here to hold his nephew's 

And now the President and the Secretary sat behind the 
cleared table and looked at the man who stood as though 
framed by the opened doors through which he had entered, 
holding his nephew by the hand like an uncle conducting for 
the first time a youthful provincial kinsman into a metro- 
politan museum of wax figures. Immobile, they contem- 
plated the soft, paunchy man facing them with his soft, bland, 

Lo! 395 

inscrutable face the long, monk-like nose, the slumbrous 
lids, the flabby, cafe-au-lait-colored jowls above a froth of 
soiled lace of an elegance fifty years outmoded and vanished; 
the mouth was full, small, and very red. Yet somewhere be- 
hind the face's expression of flaccid and weary disillusion, as 
behind the bland voice and the almost feminine mannerisms, 
there lurked something else: something willful, shrewd, un- 
predictable and despotic. Behind him clotted, quiet and 
gravely decorous, his dark retinue in beavers and broadcloth 
and woolen drawers, each with his neatly rolled pantaloons 
beneath his arm. 

For a moment longer he stood, looking from face to face 
until he found the President. He said, in a voice of soft re- 
proach: "This is not your house/' 

"No," the President said. "This is the house of this chief 
whom I have appointed myself to be the holder of justice 
between me and my Indian people. He will deal justice to 

The uncle bowed slightly. "That is all that we desire." 

"Good," the President said. On the table before him sat 
inkstand, quill, and sandbox, and many papers with ribbons 
and golden seals much in evidence, though none could have 
said if the heavy gaze had remarked them or not. The Presi- 
dent looked at the nephew. Young, lean, the nephew stood, 
his right wrist clasped by his uncle's fat, lace-foamed hand, 
and contemplated the President quietly, with grave and alert 
repose. The President dipped the quill into the ink. "Is this 
the man who . . ." 

"Who performed this murder?" the uncle said pleasantly. 
"That is what we made this long winter's journey to dis- 
cover. If he did, if this white man really did not fall from that 
swift horse of his perhaps and strike his head upon a sharp 
stone, then this nephew of mine should be punished. We do 
not think that it is right to slay white men like a confounded 

396 The Wilderness 

Cherokee or Creek." Perfectly inscrutable, perfectly deco- 
rous, he looked at the two exalted personages playing behind 
the table their clumsy deception with dummy papers; for an 
instant the President himself met the slumbrous eyes and 
looked down. The Secretary though, upthrust, his crest 
roached violently upward, glared at the uncle. 

"You should have held this horse-race across the ford it- 
self," he said. "Water wouldn't have left that gash in the 
white man's skull." 

The President, glancing quickly up, saw the heavy, secret 
face musing upon the Secretary with dark speculation. But 
almost immediately the uncle spoke. "So it would. But this 
white man would have doubtless required a coin of money 
from my nephew for passing through his gate." Then he 
laughed, mirthful, pleasant, decorous. "Perhaps it would have 
been better for that white man if he had allowed my nephew 
to pass through free. But that is neither here nor there now." 

"No," the President said, almost sharply, so that they 
looked at him again. He held the quill above the paper, 
"What is the correct name? Weddel or Vidal?" 

Again the pleasant, inflectionless voice came: "Weddel or 
Vidal. What does it matter by what name the White Chief 
calls us? We are but Indians: remembered yesterday and for- 
gotten tomorrow." 

The President wrote upon the paper. The quill scratched 
steadily in the silence in which there was but one other 
sound: a faint, steady, minor sound which seemed to emerge 
from the dark and motionless group behind the uncle and 
nephew. He sanded what he had written and folded it and 
rose and stood for a moment so while they watched him 
quietly the soldier who had commanded men well on more 
occasions than this. "Your nephew is not guilty of this mur- 
der. My chief whom I have appointed to hold justice be* 

Lo! 397 

tween us says for him to return home and never do this again, 
because next time he will be displeased." 

His voice died into a shocked silence; even for that instant 
the heavy lids fluttered, while from the dark throng behind 
him that faint, unceasing sound of quiet scratching by heat 
and wool engendered, like a faint, constant motion of the 
sea, also ceased for an instant. The uncle spoke in a tone of 
shocked unbelief: "My nephew is free?" 

"He is free," the President said. The uncle's shocked gaze 
traveled about the room. 

"This quick? And in here? In this house? I had thought. 
. . . But no matter." They watched him; again the face was 
smooth, enigmatic, blank. "We are only Indians; doubtless 
these busy white men have but little time for our small affairs. 
Perhaps we have already incommoded them too much." 

"No, no," the President said quickly. "To me, my Indian 
and my white people are the same." But again the uncle's 
gaze was traveling quietly about the room; standing side by 
side, the President and the Secretary could feel from one to 
another the same dawning alarm. After a while the President 
said: "Where had you expected this council to be held?" 

The uncle looked at him. "You will be amused. In my ig- 
norance I had thought that even our little affair would have 
been concluded in ... But no matter." 

"In what?" the President said. 

The bland, heavy face mused again upon him for a mo- 
ment. "You will laugh; nevertheless, I will obey you. In the 
big white council house beneath the golden eagle." 

"What?" the Secretary cried, starting again. "In the . . ." 

The uncle looked away. "I said that you would be amused. 
But no matter. We will have to wait, anyway." 

"Have to wait?" the President said. "For what?" 

"This is really amusing," the uncle said. He laughed again, 
in his tone of mirthful detachment. "More of my people are 

398 The Wilderness 

about to arrive. We can wait for them, since they will wish 
to see and hear also." No one exclaimed at all now, not even 
the Secretary. They merely stared at him while the bland 
voice went on: "It seems that some of them mistook the 
town. They had heard the name of the White Chief's capital 
spoken, but it so happens that there is also a town in our coun- 
try with the same name, so that when some of the People 
inquired on the road, they became misdirected and went 
there instead, poor ignorant Indians." He laughed, with fond 
and mirthful tolerance behind his enigmatic and sleepy face. 
"But a messenger has arrived; they will arrive themselves 
within the week. Then we will see about punishing this head- 
strong boy." He shook the nephew's arm lightly. Except for 
this the nephew did not move, watching the President with 
his grave and unwinking regard. 

For a long moment there was no sound save the faint, 
steady scratching of the Indians. Then the Secretary began to 
speak, patiently, as though addressing a child: "Look. Your 
nephew is free. This paper says that he did not slay the white 
man and that no man shall so accuse him again, else both I 
and the great chief beside me will be angered. He can return 
home now, at once. Let all of you return home at once. For 
is it not well said that the graves of a man's fathers are never 
quiet in his absence?" 

Again there was silence. Then the President said, "Besides, 
the white council house beneath the golden eagle is being 
used now by a council of chiefs who are more powerful there 
than I am." 

The uncle's hand lifted; foamed with soiled lace, his fore- 
finger waggled in reproachful deprecation. "Do not ask even 
an ignorant Indian to believe that," he said. Then he said, 
with no change of inflection whatever; the Secretary did not 
know until the President told him later, that the uncle was 
now addressing him: "And these chiefs will doubtless be oc- 

Lo! 399 

copying the white council hut for some time yet, I suppose." 

"Yes," the Secretary said. "Until the last snow of winter 
has melted among the flowers and the green grass." 

"Good," the uncle said. "We will wait, then. Then the 
rest of the People will have time to arrive." 

And so it was that up that Avenue with a high destiny the 
cavalcade moved in the still falling snow, led by the carriage 
containing the President and the uncle and nephew, the fat, 
ringed hand lying again upon the nephew's knee, and fol- 
lowed by a second carriage containing the Secretary and his 
secretary, and this followed in turn by two files of soldiers 
between which walked the dark and decorous cloud of men, 
women and children on foot and in arms; so it was that be- 
hind the Speaker's desk of that chamber which was to womb 
and contemplate the high dream of a destiny superior to the 
injustice of events and the folly of mankind, the President 
and the Secretary stood, while below them, ringed about by 
the living manipulators of, and interspersed by the august 
and watching ghosts of the dreamers of, the destiny, the 
uncle and nephew stood, with behind them the dark throng 
of kin and friends and acquaintances from among which 
came steadily and unabated that faint sound of wool and 
flesh in friction. The President leaned to the Secretary. 

"Are they ready with the cannon?" he whispered. "Are 
you sure they can see my arm from the door? And suppose 
those damned guns explode: they have not been fired since 
Washington shot them last at Cornwallis: will they impeach 

"Yes," the Secretary hissed. 

"Then God help us. Give me the book." The Secretary 
passed it to him: it was Petrarch's Sonnets, which the Secre- 
tary had snatched from his table in passing. "Let us hope that 
I remember enough law Latin to keep it from sounding like 
either English or Chickasaw," the President said. He opened 

400 The Wilderness 

the book, and then again the President, the conqueror of 
men, the winner of battles diplomatic, legal and martial, drew 
himself erect and looked down upon the dark, still, intent, 
waiting faces; when he spoke his voice was the voice which 
before this had caused men to pause and attend and then 
obey: "Francis Weddel, chief in the Chickasaw Nation, and 
you, nephew of Francis Weddel and some day to be a chief, 
hear my words." Then he began to read. His voice was full, 
sonorous, above the dark faces, echoing about the august 
dome in profound and solemn syllables. He read ten sonnets. 
Then, with his arm lifted, he perorated; his voice died pro- 
foundly away and he dropped his arm. A moment later, from 
outside the building, came a ragged crash of artillery. And 
now for the first time the dark throng stirred; from among 
them came a sound, a murmur, of pleased astonishment. The 
President spoke again: "Nephew of Francis Weddel, you are 
free. Return to your home." 

And now the uncle spoke; again his finger waggled from 
out its froth of lace. "Heedless boy," he said. "Consider the 
trouble which you have caused these busy men." He turned 
to the Secretary, almost briskly; again his voice was bland, 
pleasant, almost mirthful: "And now, about the little matter 
of this cursed ford. . . ." 

With the autumn sun falling warmly and pleasantly across 
his shoulders, the President said, "That is all," quietly and 
turned to his desk as the secretary departed. While he took 
up the letter and opened it the sun fell upon his hands and 
upon the page, with its inference of the splendid dying of 
the year, of approaching harvests and of columns of quiet 
wood smoke serene pennons of peace above peaceful 
chimneys about the land. 

Suddenly the President started; he sprang up, the letter in 
his hand, glaring at it in shocked and alarmed consternation 

Lo! 401 

while the bland words seemed to explode one by one in his 
comprehension like musketry: 

Dear sir and friend: 

This is really amusing. Again this hot-headed nephew 
he must have taken his character from his father's people, 
since it is none of mine has come to trouble you and me. It 
is this cursed ford again. Another white man came among us, 
to hunt in peace we thought, since God's forest and the deer 
which He put in it belong to all. But he too became obsessed 
with the idea of owning this ford, having heard tales of his 
own kind who, after the curious and restless fashion of white 
men, find one side of a stream of water superior enough to 
the other to pay coins of money for the privilege of reaching 
it. So the affair was arranged as this white man desired it. 
Perhaps I did wrong, you will say. But do I need to tell 
you? / am a simple man and some day I shall be old, I trust, 
and the continuous interruption of these white men who 
wish to cross and the collecting and care of the coins of 
money is only a nuisance. For what can money be to me, 
whose destiny it apparently is to spend my declining years 
beneath the shade of familiar trees from whose peaceful 
shade my great white friend and chief has removed the face 
of every enemy save death? That was my thought, but when 
you read farther you will see that it was not to be. 

Once more it is this rash and heedless boy. It seems that he 
challenged this new white man of ours (or the white man 
challenged him: the truth / will leave to your unerring wis- 
dom to unravel) to a swimming race in the river, the stakes 
to be this cursed ford against a few miles of land, which 
(this will amuse you) this wild nephew of mine did not even 
own. The race took place, but unfortunately our white man 
failed to emerge from the river until after he was dead. And 
now your agent has arrived* and he seems to feel that perhaps 

402 The Wilderness 

this swimming race should not have taken place at all. And 
so now there is nothing for me to do save to bestir old bones 
and bring this rash boy to you for you to reprimand him. We 
'" arrive in about . . . 

The President sprang to the bell and pulled it violently. 
When his secretary entered, he grasped the man by the 
shoulders and whirled him toward the door again. "Get me 
the Secretary of War, and maps of all the country between 
here and New Orleans!" he cried. "Hurry." 

And so again we see him; the President is absent now and 
it is the Soldier alone who sits with the Secretary of War 
behind the map-strewn table, while there face them the 
officers of a regiment of cavalry. At the table his secretary is 
writing furiously while the President looks over his shoulder. 
"Write it big," he says, "so that even an Indian cannot mis- 
take it. Know all men by these presents" he quotes. "Francis 
Weddel his heirs, descendants and assigns from now on in 
perpetuity . . . provided Have you got provided? Good 
provided that neither he nor his do ever again cross to the 
eastern side of the above described River. . . . And now to 
that damned agent," he said. "The sign must be in duplicate, 
at both ends of the ford: The United States accepts no re- 
sponsibility for any man, woman or child, black, white, yel- 
low or red, who crosses this ford, and no white man shall buy, 
lease or accept it as a gift save under the severest penalty of 
the law. Can I do that?" 

"I'm afraid not, Your Excellency," the Secretary said. 
The President mused swiftly. "Damn," he said. "Strike out 
The United States, then." The Secretary did so. The Presi- 
dent folded the two papers and handed them to the cavalry 
colonel. "Ride," he said. "Your orders are, Stop them." 

"Suppose they refuse to stop," the colonel said. "Shall I 
fire then?" 

Lo! 403 

"Yes," the President said. "Shoot every horse, mule, and 
ox. I know they won't walk. Off with you, now." The offi- 
cers withdrew. The President turned back to the maps the 
Soldier still: eager, happy, as though he rode himself with 
the regiment, or as if in spirit already he deployed it with 
that shrewd cunning which could discern and choose the 
place most disadvantageous to the enemy, and get there first. 
"It will be here," he said. He put his finger on the map. "A 
horse, General, that I may meet him here and turn his flank 
and drive him." 

"Done, General," the Secretary said. 


Ad Astra 




All the Dead Pilots 

Ad Astra 

I DONT KNOW what we were. With the exception of Comyn, 
we had started out Americans, but after three years, in our 
British tunics and British wings and here and there a ribbon, 
I dont suppose we had even bothered in three years to 
wonder what we were, to think or to remember. 

And on that day, that evening, we were even less than 
that, or more than that: either beneath or beyond the knowl- 
edge that we had not even wondered in three years. The 
subadar after a while he was there, in his turban and his 
trick major's pips said that we were like men trying to 
move in water. "But soon it will clear away," he said. "The 
effluvium of hatred and of words. We are like men trying 
to move in water, with held breath watching our terrific 
and infinitesimal limbs, watching one another's terrific stasis 
without touch, without contact, robbed of all save the im- 
potence and the need." 

We were in the car then, going to Amiens, Sartoris driv- 
ing and Comyn sitting half a head above him in the front 
seat like a tackling dummy, the subadar, Bland and I in 
back, each with a bottle or two in his pockets. Except the 
subadar, that is. He was squat, small and thick, yet his so- 
briety was colossal. In that maelstrom of alcohol where the 
rest of us had fled our inescapable selves he was like a rock, 

408 The Wasteland 

talking quietly in a grave bass four sizes too big for him: 
"In my country I was prince. But all men are brothers." 

But after twelve years I think of us as bugs in the surface 
of the water, isolant and aimless and unflagging. Not on the 
surface; in it, within that line of demarcation not air and not 
water, sometimes submerged, sometimes not. You have 
watched an unbreaking groundswell in a cove, the water 
shallow, the cove quiet, a little sinister with satiate famili- 
arity, while beyond the darkling horizon the dying storm 
has raged on. That was the water, we the flotsam. Even 
after twelve years it is no clearer than that. It had no begin- 
ning and no ending. Out of nothing we howled, unwitting 
the storm which we had escaped and the foreign strand 
which we could not escape; that in the interval between two 
surges of the swell we died who had been too young to have 
ever lived. 

We stopped in the middle of the road to drink again. The 
land was dark and empty. And quiet: that was what you 
noticed, remarked. You could hear the earth breathe, like 
coming out of ether, like it did not yet know, believe, that 
it was awake. "But now it is peace," the subadar said. "All 
men are brothers." 

"You spoke before the Union once," Bland said. He was 
blond and tall. When he passed through a room where 
women were he left a sighing wake like a ferry boat enter- 
ing the slip. He was a Southerner, too, like Sartoris; but 
unlike Sartoris, in the five months he had been out, no one 
had ever found a bullet hole in his machine. But he had trans- 
ferred out of an Oxford battalion he was a Rhodes scholar 
with a barnacle and a wound-stripe. When he was tight 
he would talk about his wife, though we all knew that he 
was not married. 

He took the bottle from Sartoris and drank. "I've got the 
sweetest little wife," he said. "Let me tell YOU about her." 

Ad Astra 409 

"Dont tell us," Sartoris said. "Give her to Comyn. He 
wants a girl." 

"All right," Bland said. "You can have her, Comyn." 

"Is she blonde?" Comyn said. 

"I dont know," Bland said. He turned back to the subadar, 
"You spoke before the Union once. I remember you." 

"Ah," the subadar said. "Oxford. Yes." 

"He can attend their schools among the gentleborn, the 
bleach-skinned," Bland said. "But he cannot hold their com- 
mission, because gentility is a matter of color and not lineage 
or behavior." 

"Fighting is more important than truth," the subadar said. 
"So we must restrict the prestige and privileges of it to the 
few so that it will not lose popularity with the many who 
have to die." 

"Why more important?" I said. "I thought this one was 
being fought to end war forevermore." 

The subadar made a brief gesture, dark, deprecatory, 
tranquil. "I was a white man also for that moment. It is more 
important for the Caucasian because he is only what he can 
do; it is the sum of him." 

"So you see further than we see?" 

"A man sees further looking out of the dark upon the 
light than a man does in the light and looking out upon the 
light. That is the principle of the spyglass. The lens is only to 
tease him with that which the sense that suffers and desires 
can never affirm." 

"What do you see, then?" Bland said. 

"I see girls," Comyn said. "I see acres and acres of the 
yellow hair of them like wheat and me among the wheat. 
Have ye ever watched a hidden dog quartering a wheat field, 
any of yez?" 

"Not hunting bitches," Bland said. 

Comyn turned in the seat, thick and huge. He was big as 

410 The Wasteland 

all outdoors. To watch two mechanics shoehorning him into 
the cockpit of a Dolphin like two chambermaids putting an 
emergency bolster into a case too small for it, was a sight to 
see. "I will beat the head off ye for a shilling," he said. 

"So you believe in the Tightness of man?" I said. 

"I will beat the heads off yez all for a shilling," Comyn 

"I believe in the pitiableness of man," the subadar said. 
"That is better." 

"I will give yez a shilling, then, v/ Comyn said. 

"All right," Sartoris said. "Did you ever try a little whisky 
for the night air, any of you all?" 

Comyn took the bottle and drank. "Acres and acres of 
them," he said, "with their little round white woman parts 
gleaming among the moiling wheat." 

So we drank again, on the lonely road between two beet 
fields, in the dark quiet, and the turn of the inebriation 
began to make. It came back from wherever it had gone, 
rolling down upon us and upon the grave sober rock of the 
subadar until his voice sounded remote and tranquil and 
dreamlike, saying that we were brothers. Monaghan was 
there then, standing beside our car in the full glare of the 
headlights of his car, in an R.F.C. cap and an American tunic 
with both shoulder straps flapping loose, drinking from 
Comyn's bottle. Beside him stood a second man, also in a 
tunic shorter and trimmer than ours, with a bandage about 
his head. 

"I'll fight you," Comyn told Monaghan. "I'll give you 
the shilling." 

"All right," Monaghan said. He drank again. 

"We are all brothers," the subadar said. "Sometimes we 
pause at the wrong inn. We think it is night and we stop, 
when it is not night. That is all." 

"I'll give you a sovereign," Comyn told Monaghan. 

Ad Astra 411 

"All right," Monaghan said. He extended the bottle to 
the other man, the one with the bandaged head. 

"I thangk you," the man said. "I haf plenty yet." 

"I'll fight him," Comyn said. 

"It is because we can do only within the heart," the 
subadar said. "While we see beyond the heart." 

"I'll be damned if you will," Monaghan said. "He's mine." 
He turned to the man with the bandaged head. "Aren't you 
mine? Here; drink." 

"I haf plenty, I thangk you, gentlemen," the other said. 
But I dont think any of us paid much attention to him until 
we were inside the Cloche-Clos. It was crowded, full of 
noise and smoke. When we entered all the noise ceased, like 
a string cut in two, the end raveling back into a sort of 
shocked consternation of pivoting faces, and the waiter an 
old man in a dirty apron falling back before us, slack- 
jawed, with an expression of outraged unbelief, like an 
atheist confronted with either Christ or the devil. We 
crossed the room, the waiter retreating before us, paced by 
the turning outraged faces, to a table adjacent to one where 
three French officers sat watching us with that same expres- 
sion of astonishment and then outrage and then anger. As 
one they rose; the whole room, the silence, became staccato 
with voices, like machine guns. That was when I turned and 
looked at Monaghan's companion for the first time, in his 
green tunic and his black snug breeks and his black boots 
and his bandage. He had cut himself recently shaving, and 
with his bandaged head and his face polite and dazed and 
bloodless and sick, he looked like Monaghan had been using 
him pretty hard. Roundfaced, not old, with his immaculately 
turned bandage which served only to emphasize the genera- 
tions of difference between him and the turbaned subadar, 
flanked by Monaghan with his wild face and wild tunic and 
surrounded by the French people's shocked and outraged 

412 The Wasteland 

faces, he appeared to contemplate with a polite and alert 
concern his own struggle against the inebriation which 
Monaghan was forcing upon him. There was something 
Anthony-like about him: rigid, soldierly, with every button 
in place, with his unblemished bandage and his fresh razor 
cuts, he appeared to muse furiously upon a clear flame of a 
certain conviction of individual behavior above a violent 
and inexplicable chaos. Then I remarked Monaghan's sec- 
ond companion: an American military policeman. He was 
not drinking. He sat beside the German, rolling cigarettes 
from a cloth sack. 

On the German's other side Monaghan was filling his 
glass. "I brought him down this morning," he said. "I'm 
going to take him home with me." 

"Why?" Bland said. "What do you want with him?" 

"Because he belongs to me," Monaghan said. He set the 
full glass before the German. "Here; drink." 

"I once thought about taking one home to my wife," 
Bland said. "So I could prove to her that I have only been 
to a war. But I never could find a good one. A whole one, 
I mean." 

"Come on," Monaghan said. u Drink." 

"I haf plenty," the German said. "All day I haf plenty." 

"Do you want to go to America with him?" Bland said: 

"Yes. I would ligk it. Thanks." 

"Sure you'll like it," Monaghan said. "I'll make a man of 
you. Drink," 

The German raised the glass, but he merely held it in his 
hand. His face was strained, deprecatory, yet with a kind 
of sereneness, like that of a man who has conquered himself. 
I imagine some of the old martyrs must have looked at the 
lions with that expression. He was sick, too. Not from the 
liquor: from his head. "I haf in Beyreuth a wife and a little 
wohn. Mine son. I haf not him yet seen." 

Ad Astra 413 

"Ah," the subadar said. "Beyreuth. I was there one 

"Ah," the German said. He looked quickly at the subadar. 
"So? The music?" 

"Yes," the subadar said. "In your music a few of you have 
felt, tasted, lived, the true brotherhood. The rest of us can 
only look beyond the heart. But we can follow them for a 
little while in the music." 

"And then we must return," the German said. "That iss 
not good. Why must we yet return always?" 

"It is not the time for that yet," the subadar said. "But 
soon ... It is not as far as it once was. Not now." 

"Yes," the German said. "Defeat will be good for us. 
Defeat iss good for art; victory, it iss not good." 

"So you admit you were whipped," Comyn said. He was 
sweating again, and Sartoris' nostrils were quite white, I 
thought of what the subadar had said about men in water. 
Only our water was drunkenness: that isolation of alcohol- 
ism which drives men to shout and laugh and fight, not with 
one another but with their unbearable selves which, drunk, 
they are even more fain and still less fell to escape. Loud and 
overloud, unwitting the black thunderhead of outraged 
France (steadily the other tables were being emptied; the 
other customers were now clotted about the high desk 
where the patronne, an old woman in steel spectacles, sat, a 
wad of knitting on the ledge before her) we shouted at one 
another, speaking in foreign tongues out of our inescapable 
isolations, reiterant, unlistened to by one another; while sub- 
merged by us and more foreign still, the German and the 
subadar talked quietly of music, art, the victory born of 
defeat. And outside in the chill November darkness was the 
suspension, the not-quite-believing, not-quite-awakened 
nightmare, the breathing spell of the old verbiaged lusts and 
the buntinged and panoplied greeds. 

414 The Wasteland 

"By God, I'm shanty Irish," Monaghan said. "That's what 
I am." 

"What about it?" Sartoris said, his nostrils like chalk 
against his high-colored face. His twin brother had been 
killed in July. He was in a Camel squadron below us, and 
Sartoris was down there when it happened. For a week 
after that, as soon as he came in from patrol he would fill 
his tanks and drums and go out again, alone. One day some- 
body saw him, roosting about five thousand feet above an 
old Ak.W. I suppose the other guy who was with his brother 
that morning had seen the markings on the Hun patrol 
leader's crate; anyway, that's what Sartoris was doing, using 
the Ak.W. for bait. Where he got it and who he got to fly 
it, we didn't know. But he got three Huns that week, catch- 
ing them dead when they dived on the Ak.W., and on the 
eighth day he didn't go out again. "He must have got him," 
Hume said. But we didn't know. He never told us. But after 
that, he was all right again. He never did talk much; just 
did his patrols and maybe once a week he'd sit and drink his 
nostrils white in a quiet sort of way. 

Bland was filling his glass, a drop at a time almost, with 
a catlike indolence. I could see why men didn't like him 
and why women did. Comyn, his arms crossed on the table, 
his cuff in a pool of spilt liquor, was staring at the German. 
His eyes were bloodshot, a little protuberant. Beneath his 
downcrushed monkey cap the American M.P. smoked his 
meager cigarettes, his face quite blank. The steel chain of 
his whistle looped into his breast pocket, his pistol was 
hunched forward onto his lap. Beyond, the French people, 
the soldiers, the waiter, the patronne, clotted at the desk. I 
could hear their voices like from a distance, like crickets in 
September grass, the shadows of their hands jerking up the 
wall and flicking away. 

"Fm not a soldier," Monaghan said. "I'm not a gentleman. 

Ad Astra 415 

I'm not anything." At the base of each flapping shoulder 
strap there was a small rip; there were two longer ones 
parallel above his left pocket where His wings and ribbon had 
been. "I dont know what I am. I have been in this damn war 
for three years and all I know is, I'm not dead. I " 

"How do you know you're not dead?" Bland said. 

Monaghan looked at Bland, his mouth open upon his un- 
completed word. 

"I'll kill you for a shilling," Comyn said. "I dont like your 
bloody face, Lootenant. Bloody lootenant." 

"I'm shanty Irish," Monaghan said. "That's what I am. 
My father was shanty Irish, by God. And I dont know what 
my grandfather was. I dont know if I had one. My father 
dont remember one. Likely it could have been one of several. 
So he didn't even have to be a gentleman. He never had to 
be. That's why he could make a million dollars digging 
sewers in the ground. So he could look up at the tall glitter- 
ing windows and say I've heard him, and him smoking the 
pipe would gas the puking guts out of you damn, niggling, 
puny " 

"Are you bragging about your father's money or about 
his sewers?" Bland said. 

" would look up at them and he'd say to me, he'd say, 
'When you're with your fine friends, the fathers and mothers 
and sisters of them you met at Yale, ye might just remind 
them that every man is the slave of his own refuse and so 
your old dad they would be sending around to the forty- 
story back doors of their kitchens is the king of them all ' 
What did you say?" He looked at Bland. 

"Look here, buddy," the M.P. said. "This is about enough 
of this. I've got to report this prisoner." 

"Wait," Monaghan said. He did not cease to look at 
Bland. "What did you say?" 

4i 6 The Wasteland 

"Are you bragging about your father's money or about 
his sewers?" Bland said. 

"No," Monaghan saW. "Why should I? Any more than 
I would brag about the thirteen Huns I got, or the two rib- 
bons, one of which his damned king " he jerked his head at 
Comyn "gave me." 

"Dont call him my damned king," Comyn said, his cuff 
soaking slowly in the spilt liquor. 

"Look," Monaghan said. He jerked his hand at the rips on 
his flapping shoulder straps, at the two parallel rips on his 
breast. "That's what I think of it. Of all your goddamn 
twaddle about glory and gentlemen. I was young; I thought 
you had to be. Then I was in it and there wasn't time to 
stop even when I found it didn't count. But now it's over; 
finished now. Now I can be what I am. Shanty Irish; son of 
an immigrant that knew naught but shovel and pick until 
youth and the time for pleasuring was wore out of him 
before his time. Out of a peat bog he came, and his son went 
to their gentlemen's school and returned across the water to 
swank it with any of them that owned the peat bogs and the 
bitter sweat of them that mired it, and the king said him 

"I will give yez the shilling and I will beat the head off 
yez," Comyn said. 

"But why do you want to take him back with you?" 
Bland said. Monaghan just looked at Bland. There was some- 
thing of the crucified about Monaghan, too: furious, inar- 
ticulate not with stupidity but at it, like into him more than 
any of us had distilled the ceased drums of the old lust and 
greed waking at last aghast at their own impotence and ac- 
crued despair. Bland sat on his spine, legs extended, his hands 
in his slacks, his handsome face calmly insufferable. "What 
stringed pick would he bow? maybe a shovel strung with 
the ejut of an alley-cat? he will create perhaps in music the 

Ad Astra 417 

flushed toilets of Manhattan to play for your father after 
supper of an evening?" Monaghan just looked at Bland with 
that wild, rapt expression. Bland turned his lazy face a little 
to the German. 

"Look here," the M.P. said. 

"You have a wife, Herr Lcutnant?" Bland said. 

The German looked up. He glanced swiftly from face to 
face. "Yes, thank you," he said. He still had not touched his 
full glass save to hold it in his hand. But he was no nearer 
sober than before, the liquor become the hurting of his head, 
his head the pulse and beat of alcohol in him. "My people 
are of Prussia little barons. There are four brothers: the sec- 
ond for the Army, the third who did nothing in Berlin, the 
little one a cadet of dragoons; I, the eldest, in the University. 
There I learned. There wass a time then. It was as though 
we, young from the quiet land, were brought together, 
chosen and worthy to witness a period quick like a woman 
with a high destiny of the earth and of man. It iss as though 
the old trash, the old litter of man's blundering, iss to be 
swept away for a new race that will in the heroic simplicity 
of olden time walk the new earth. You knew that time, 
not? When the eye sparkled, the blut ran quick?" He 
looked about at our faces. "No? Well, in America perhaps 
not. America iss new; in a new house it is not the litter so 
much as in old." He looked at his glass for a moment, his 
face tranquil. "I return home; I say to my father, in the 
University I haf learned it iss not good; baron I will not be. 
He cannot believe. He talks of Germany, the fatherland; I 
say to him, It iss there; so. You say fatherland; I, brother- 
land, I say, the word father iss that barbarism which 
will be first swept away; it iss the symbol of that hierarchy 
which hass stained the history of man with injustice of arbi- 
trary instead of moral; force instead of love. 

"From Berlin they send for that one; from the Army that 

4 i 8 The Wasteland 

one comes. I still say baron I will not be, for it iss not good. 
We are in the little hall where my ancestors on the walls 
hang; I stand before them like court-martial; I say that 
Franz must be baron, for I will not be. My father says you 
can; you will; it iss for Germany. Then I say, For Germany 
then will my wife be baroness? And like a court-martial I 
tell them I haf married the daughter of a musician who wass 

"So it iss that. That one of Berlin iss to be baron. He and 
Franz are twin, but Franz iss captain already, and the most 
humble of the Army may eat meat with our kaiser; he does 
not need to be baron. So I am in Beyreuth with my wife 
and my music. It iss as though I am dead. I do not get letter 
until to say my father iss dead and I haf killed him, and that 
one iss now home from Berlin to be baron. But he does not 
stay at home. In 1912 he iss in Berlin newspaper dead of a 
lady's husband and so Franz iss baron after all. 

"Then it iss war. But I am in Beyreuth with my wife and 
my music, because we think that it will not be long, since 
it was not long before. The fatherland in its pride needed 
us of the schools, but when it needed us it did not know it. 
And when it did realize that it needed us it wass too late and 
any peasant who would be hard to die would do. And so " 

"Why did you go, then?" Bland said. "Did the women 
make you? throw eggs at you, maybe?" 

The German looked at Bland. "I am German; that iss 
beyond the I, the I am. Not for baron and kaiser." Then he 
quit looking at Bland without moving his eyes. "There wass 
a Germany before there wass barons," he said. "And after, 
there will be." 

"Even after this?" 

"More so. Then it was pride, a word in the mouth. Now 
it is a how you call it? . . ." 

Ad Astra 419 

"A nation vanquishes its banners," the subadar said. "A 
man conquers himself." 

"Or a woman a child bears," the German said. 

"Out of the lust, the travail," the subadar said; "out of 
the travail, the affirmation, the godhead; truth." 

The M.P. was rolling another cigarette. He watched the 
subadar, upon his face an expression savage, restrained, and 
cold. He licked the cigarette and looked at me. 

"When I came to this goddamn country," he said, "I 
thought niggers were niggers. But now I'll be damned if I 
know what they are. What's he? snake-charmer?" 

"Yes," I said. "Snake-charmer." 

"Then he better get his snake out and beat it. I've got to 
report this prisoner. Look at those frogs yonder." As I 
turned and looked three of the Frenchmen were leaving the 
room, insult and outrage in the shapes of their backs. The 
German was talking again. 

"I hear by the newspapers how Franz is colonel and then 
general, and how the cadet, who wass still the round-headed 
boy part of a gun always when I last saw him, iss now ace 
with iron cross by the kaiser's own hand. Then it iss 1916. 
I see by the paper how the cadet iss killed by your Bishop " 
he bowed slightly to Comyn "that good man. So now I 
am cadet myself. It iss as though I know. It iss as though I 
see what iss to be. So I transfer to be aviator, and yet though 
I know now that Franz iss general of staff and though to 
myself each night I say, 'You have again returned,' I know 
that it iss no good. 

"That, until our kaiser fled. Then I learn that Franz iss 
now in Berlin; I believe that there iss a truth, that we haf 
not forfeited all in pride, because we know it will not be 
much longer now, and Franz in Berlin safe, the fighting 
away from. 

"Then it iss this morning. Then comes the letter in my 

420 The Wasteland 

mother's hand that I haf not seen in seven years, addressed 
to me as baron. Franz iss shot from his horse by German 
soldier in Berlin street. It iss as though all had been forgotten, 
because women can forget all that quick, since to them 
nothing iss real truth, justice, all nothing that cannot be 
held in the hands or cannot die. So I burn all my papers, the 
picture of my wife and my son that I haf not yet seen, 
destroy my identity disk and remove all insignia from my 
tunic " he gestured toward his collar. 

"You mean," Bland said, "that you had no intention of 
coming back? Why didn't you take a pistol to yourself and 
save your government an aeroplane?" 

"Suicide iss just for the body," the German said. "The 
body settles nothing. It iss of no importance. It iss just to 
be kept clean when possible." 

"It is merely a room in the inn," the subadar said. "It is 
just where we hide for a little while." 

"The lavatory," Bland said; "the toilet." 

The M.P. rose. He tapped the German on the shoulder. 
Comyn was staring at the German. 

"So you admit you were whipped," he said. 

"Yes," the German said. "It wass our time first, because 
we were the sickest. It will be your England's next. Then 
she too will be well." 

"Dont say my England," Comyn said. "I am of the Irish 
nation." He turned to Monaghan. "You said, my damned 
king. Dont say my damned king. Ireland has had no king 
since the Ur Neill, God bless the red-haired stern of him." 

Rigid, controlled, the German made a faint gesture. "You 
see?" he said to no one at all. 

"The victorious lose that ^hich the vanquished gain," the 
subadar said. 

"And what will vou do now?" Bland said. 

Ad Astra 42 1 

The German did not answer. He sat bolt upright with 
his sick face and his immaculate bandage. 

"What will you do?" the subadar said to Bland. "What 
will any of us do? All this generation which fought in the 
war are dead tonight. But we do not yet know it." 

We looked at the subadar: Comyn with his bloodshot 
pig's eyes, Sartoris with his white nostrils, Bland slumped 
in his chair, indolent, insufferable, with his air of a spoiled 
woman. Above the German the M.P. stood. 

"It seems to worry you a hell of a lot," Bland said. 

"You do not believe?" the subadar said. "Wait. You will 

"Wait?" Bland said. "I dont think I've done anything in 
the last three years to have acquired that habit. In the last 
twenty-six years. Before that I dont remember. I may have." 

"Then you will see sooner than waiting," the subadar said. 
"You will see." He looked about at us, gravely serene. 
"Those who have been four years rotting out yonder " 
he waved his short thick arm "are not more dead than we." 

Again the M.P. touched the German's shoulder. "Hell," 
he said. "Come along, buddy." Then he turned his head and 
we all looked up at the two Frenchmen, an officer and a 
sergeant, standing beside the table. For a while we just re- 
mained so. It was like all the little bugs had suddenly found 
that their orbits had coincided and they wouldn't even have 
to be aimless any more or even to keep on moving. Beneath 
the alcohol I could feel that hard, hot ball beginning in my 
stomach, like in combat, like when you know something is 
about to happen; that instant when you think Now. Now 
I can dump everything overboard and just be. Now. Now. 
It is quite pleasant. 

"Why is that here, monsieur?" the officer said. Monaghan 
looked up at him, thrust backward and sideways in his chair, 
poised on the balls of his thighs as though they were feet, 

422 The Wasteland 

his arm lying upon the table. "Why do you make desagre- 
able for France, monsieur, eh?" the officer said. 

Someone grasped Monaghan as he rose; it was the M.P. 
behind him, holding him half risen. "Wa-a-a-i-daminute," 
the M.P. said; "wa-a-a-i-daminute." The cigarette bobbed 
on his lower lip as he talked, his hands on Monaghan's shoul- 
ders, the brassard on his arm lifted into bold relief. "What's 
it to you, Frog? " he said. Behind the officer and the sergeant 
the other French people stood, and the old woman. She was 
trying to push through the circle. "This is my prisoner," the 
M.P. said. "I'll take him anywhere I please and keep him 
there as long as I like. What do you think about that?" 

"By which authority, monsieur?" the officer said. He was 
tall, with a gaunt, tragic face. I saw then that one of his eyes 
was glass. It was motionless, rigid in a face that looked even 
deader than the spurious eye. 

The M.P. glanced toward his brassard, then instead he 
looked at the officer again and tapped the pistol swinging 
low now against his flank. "I'll take him all over your god- 
damn lousy country. I'll take him into your goddamn senate 
and kick your president up for a chair for him and you can 
suck your chin until I come back to wipe the latrine off 
your feet again." 

"Ah," the officer said, "a devil-dog, I see." He said "dehvil- 
dahg" between his teeth, with no motion of his dead face, 
in itself insult. Behind him the patronne began to shriek in 

"Boche! Boche! Broken! Broken! Every cup, every saucer, 
glass, plate all, all! I will show you! I have kept them for this 
day. Eight months since the obus I have kept them in a box 
against this day: plates, cups, saucers, glasses, all that I have 
had since thirty years, all gone, broken at one time! And it 
costing me fifty centimes the glass for such that I shame 
myself to have my patrons " 

Ad Astra 423 

There is an unbearable point, a climax, in weariness. Even 
alcohol cannot approach it. Mobs are motivated by it, by 
a sheer attenuation of sameness become unbearable. As 
Monaghan rose, the M.P. flung him back. Then it was as 
though we all flung everything overboard at once, facing 
unbashed and without shame the specter which for four 
years we had been decking out in high words, leaping for- 
ward with concerted and orderly promptitude each time 
the bunting slipped. I saw the M.P. spring at the officer, then 
Corny n rose and met him. I saw the M.P. hit Corny n three 
times on the point of the jaw with his fist before Corny n 
picked him up bodily and threw him clean over the crowd, 
where he vanished, horizontal in midair, tugging at his pistol. 
I saw three poilus on Monaghan's back and the officer trying 
to hit him with a bottle, and Sartoris leaping upon the offi- 
cer from behind. Comyn was gone; through the gap which 
he had made the patronne emerged, shrieking. Two men 
caught at her and she strove forward, trying to spit on the 
German. "Boche! Boche!" she shrieked, spitting and slob- 
bering, her gray hair broken loose about her face; she turned 
and spat full at me. "Thou, too!" she shrieked, "it was not 
England that was devastated! Thou, too, come to pick the 
bones of France. Jackal! Vulture! Animal! Broken, broken! 
All! All! All!" And beneath it all, unmoved, unmoving, alert, 
watchful and contained, the German and the subadar sat, 
the German with his high, sick face, the subadar tranquil as 
a squat idol, the both of them turbaned like prophets in the 
Old Testament. 

It didn't take long. There was no time in it. Or rather, we 
were outside of time; within, not on, that surface, that de- 
marcation between the old where we knew we had not died 
and the new where the subadar said that we were dead. 
Beyond the brandished bottles, the blue sleeves and the 
grimed hands, the faces like masks grimaced into rigid and 

424 The Wasteland 

soundless shouts to frighten children, I saw Comyn again. 
He came plowing up like a laden ship in a chop sea; beneath 
his arm was the ancient waiter, to his lips he held the M.P.'s 
whistle. Then Sartoris swung a chair at the single light. 

It was cold in the street, a cold that penetrated the cloth- 
ing, the alcohol-distended pores, and murmured to the skele- 
ton itself. The plaza was empty, the lights infrequent and 
remote. So quiet it was that I could hear the faint water in 
the fountain. From some distance away came sound, remote 
too under the thick low sky shouting, far-heard, on a thin 
female note like all shouting, even a mob of men, broken now 
and then by the sound of a band. In the shadow of the wall 
Monaghan and Comyn held the German on his feet. He was 
unconscious; the three of them invisible save for the faint 
blur of the bandage, inaudible save for the steady monotone 
of Monaghan's cursing. 

"There should never have been an alliance between 
Frenchmen and Englishmen," the subadar said. He spoke 
without effort; invisible, his effortless voice had an organ 
quality, out of all proportion to his size. "Different nations 
should never join forces to fight for the same object. Let each 
fight for something different; ends that do not conflict, each 
in his own way." Sartoris passed us, returning from the foun- 
tain, carrying his bulging cap carefully before him, bottom- 
up. We could hear the water dripping from it between his 
footsteps. He became one of the blob of thicker shadow 
where the bandage gleamed and where Monaghan cursed 
steadily and quietly. "And each after his own tradition," the 
subadar said. "My people. The English gave them rifles. They 
looked at them and came to me: 'This spear is too short and 
too heavy: how can a man slay a swift enemy with a spear 
of this size and weight?' They gave them tunics with buttons 
to be kept buttoned; I have passed a whole trench of them 
sauatting, motionless, buried to the ears in blankets, straw, 

Ad Astra 425 

empty sand bags, their faces gray with cold; I have lifted the 
blankets away from patient torsos clad only in a shirt. 

"The English officers would say to them, 'Go there and do 
thus'; they would not stir. Then one day at full noon the 
whole battalion, catching movement beyond a crater, sprang 
from the trench, carrying me and an officer with it. We 
carried the trench without firing a shot; what was left of us 
the officer, I, and seventeen others lived three days in a 
traverse of the enemy's front line; it required a whole brigade 
to extricate us. 'Why didn't you shoot? ' the officer said. 'You 
let them pick you off like driven pheasant.' They did not 
look at him. Like children they stood, murmurous, alert, 
without shame. I said to the headman, 'Were the rifles loaded, 
O Das?' Like children they stood, diffident, without shame. 
'O Son of many kings,' Das said. 'Speak the truth of thy 
knowing to the sahib,' I said. 'They were not loaded, sahib,' 
Das said." 

Again the band came, remote, thudding in the thick air. 
They were giving the German drink from a bottle. Mon- 
aghan said: "Now. Feel better now?" 

"It iss mine head," the German said. They spoke quietly, 
like they were discussing wall-paper. 

Monaghan cursed again. "I'm going back. By God, I " 

"No, no," the German said. "I will not permit. You haf 
already obligated " 

We stood in the shadow beneath the wall and drank. We 
had one bottle left. Comyn crashed it, empty, against the 

"Now what?" Bland said. 

"Girls," Comyn said. "Would ye watch Comyn of the 
Irish nation among the yellow hair of them like a dog among 
the wheat?" 

We stood there, hearing the far band, the far shouting. 
"You sure you feel all right?" Monaghan said. 

"Thanks," the German said. "I feel goot." 

426 The Wasteland 

"Come on, then," Comyn said. 

"You going to take him with you?" Bland said. 

"Yes," Monaghan said. "What of it?" 

"Why not take him on to the A.P.M.? He's sick." 

"Do you want me to bash your bloody face in?" Mon- 
aghan said. 

"All right," Bland said. 

"Come on," Comyn said. "What fool would rather fight 
than fush? All men are brothers, and all their wives are sis- 
ters. So come along, yez midnight fusileers." 

"Look here," Bland said to the German, "do you want to 
go with them?" With his bandaged head, he and the subadar 
alone were visible, like two injured men among five spirits. 

"Hold him up a minute," Monaghan told Comyn. Mona- 
ghan approached Bland. He cursed Bland. "I like fighting," 
he said, in that same monotone. "I even like being whipped." 

"Wait," the German said. "Again I will not permit." Mon- 
aghan halted, he and Bland not a foot apart. "I haf wife and 
son in Beyreuth," the German said. He was speaking to me, 
He gave me the address, twice, carefully. 

"I'll write to her," I said. "What shall I tell her?" 

"Tell her it iss nothing. You will know." 

"Yes. I'll tell her you are all right." 

"Tell her this life iss nothing." 

Comyn and Monaghan took his arms again, one on either 
side. They turned and went on, almost carrying him. Comyn 
looked back once. "Peace be with you," he said. 

"And with you, peace," the subadar said. They went on. 
We watched them come into silhouette in the mouth of an 
alley where a light was. There was an arch there, and the 
faint cold pale light on the arch and on the walls so that it 
was like a gate and they entering the gate, holding the Ger- 
man up between them. 

"What will they do with him?" Bland said. "Prop him in 

Ad Astra 427 

the corner and turn the light off? Or do French brothels have 
he-beds too?" 

"Who the hell's business is that?" I said. 

The sound of the band came, thudding; it was cold. Each 
time my flesh jerked with alcohol and cold I believed that I 
could hear it rasp on the bones. 

"Since seven years now I have been in this climate," the 
subadar said. "But still I do not like the cold." His voice was 
deep, quiet, like he might be six feet tall. It was like when 
they made him they said among themselves, "We'll give him 
something to carry his message around with." "Why? Who'll 
listen to his message?" "He will. So we'll give him something 
to hear it with." 

"Why dont you go back to India then?" Bland said. 

"Ah," the subadar said. "I am like him; I too will not be 

"So you clear out and let foreigners who will treat the 
people like oxen or rabbits come in and take it." 

"By removing myself I undid in one day what it took two 
thousand years to do. Is not that something?" 

We shook with the cold. Now the cold was the band, the 
shouting, murmuring with cold hands to the skeleton, not 
the ears. 

"Well," Bland said, "I suppose the English government is 
doing more to free your people than you could." 

The subadar touched Bland on the chest, lightly. "You are 
wise, my friend. Let England be glad that all Englishmen are 
not so wise." 

"So you will be an exile for the rest of your days, eh?" 

The subadar jerked his short, thick arm toward the empty 
arch where Comyn and the German and Monaghan had dis- 
appeared. "Did you not hear what he said? This life is 

"You can think so," Bland said. "But, by God, I'd hate to 

428 The Wasteland 

think that what I saved out of the last three years is nothing." 

"You saved a dead man," the subadar said serenely. "You 
will see." 

"I saved my destiny," Bland said. "You nor nobody else 
knows what that will be." 

"What is your destiny except to be dead? It is unfortunate 
that your generation had to be the one. It is unfortunate that 
for the better part of your days you will walk the earth a 
spirit. But that was your destiny." From far away came the 
shouting, on that sustained note, feminine and childlike all at 
once, and then the band again, brassy, thudding, like the 
voices, forlornly gay, hysteric, but most of all forlorn. The 
arch in the cold glow of the light yawned empty, profound, 
silent, like the gate to another city, another world. Suddenly 
Sartoris left us. He walked steadily to the wall and leaned 
against it on his propped arms, vomiting. 

"Hell," Bland said. "I want a drink." He turned to me. 
"Where's your bottle?" 

"It's gone." 

"Gone where? You had two." 

"I haven't got one now, though. Drink water." 

"Water?" he said. "Who the hell drinks water?" 

Then the hot hard ball came into my stomach again, pleas- 
ant, unbearable, real; again that instant when you say Now. 
Now I can dump everything. "You will, you goddamn son," 
I said. 

Bland was not looking at me. "Twice," he said in a quiet, 
detached tone. "Twice in an hour. How's that for high?" 
He turned and went toward the fountain. Sartoris came back, 
walking steadily erect. The band blent with the cold along 
the bones. 

"What time is it?" I said. 

Sartoris peered at his wrist. "Twelfth." 

"It's later than midnight," I said. "It must be." 

Ad Astra 429 

"I said it was the twelfth," Sartoris said. 

Bland was stooping at the fountain. There was a little light 
there. As we reached him he stood up, mopping at his face. 
The light was on his face and I thought for some time that he 
must have had his whole head under to be mopping that 
high up his face before I saw that he was crying. He stood 
there, mopping at his face, crying hard but quiet. 

"My poor little wife," he said. "My poor little wife." 



THOSE WHO SAW HIM descend from the Marseilles express in 
the Gare de Lyon on that damp morning saw a tall man, a 
little stiff, with a bronze face and spike-ended moustaches 
and almost white hair. "A milord," they said, remarking his 
sober, correct suit, his correct stick correctly carried, his 
sparse baggage; "a milord military. But there is something 
the matter with his eyes." But there was something the mat- 
ter with the eyes of so many people, men and women too, 
in Europe since four years now. So they watched him go on, 
a half head above the French people, with his gaunt, strained 
eyes, his air strained, purposeful, and at the same time as- 
sured, and vanish into a cab, thinking, if they thought about 
him any more at all: "You will see him in the Legation 
offices or at a table on the Boulevards, or in a carriage with 
the fine English ladies in the Bois." That was all. 

And those who saw him descend from the same cab at the 
Gare du Nord, they thought: "This milord returns home by 
haste"; the porter who took his bag wished him good morn- 
ing in fair English and told him that he was going to Eng- 
land, receiving for reply the English glare which the porter 
perhaps expected, and put him into a first-class carriage of 
the boat train. And that was all, too. That was all right, too, 
even when he got down at Amiens. English milords even did 

43 l 

432 The Wasteland 

that. It was only at Rozieres that they began to look at him 
and after him when he had passed. 

In a hired car he jounced through a gutted street between 
gutted walls rising undoored and unwindowed in jagged 
shards in the dusk. The street was partially blocked now and 
then by toppled walls, with masses of masonry in the cracks 
of which a thin grass sprouted, passing empty and ruined 
courtyards, in one of which a tank, mute and tilted, rusted 
among rank weeds. This was Rozieres, but he didn't stop 
there because no one lived there and there was no place to 

So the car jounced and crept on out of the ruin. The 
muddy and unpaved street entered a village of harsh new 
brick and sheet iron and tarred paper roofs made in America, 
and halted before the tallest house. It was flush with the 
street: a brick wall with a door and one window of Amer- 
ican glass bearing the word RESTAURANT. "Here you are, sir," 
the driver said. 

The passenger descended, with his bag, his ulster, his cor- 
rect stick. He entered a biggish, bare room chill with new 
plaster. It contained a billiard table at which three men 
played. One of the men looked over his shoulder and said, 

"Bonjour, monsieur." 

The newcomer did not reply at all. He crossed the room, 
passing the new zinc bar, and approached an open door be- 
yond which a woman of any age around forty looked at 
him above the sewing on her lap. 

"Bong jour, madame," he said. "Dormie, madame?" 

The woman gave him a single glance, brief, still. "C'est ga, 
monsieur," she said, rising. 

"Dormie, madame?" he said, raising his voice a little, his 
spiked moustache beaded a little with rain, dampness be- 
neath his strained yet assured eyes. "Dormie, madame?" 

"Bon, monsieur," the woman said. "Bon. Bon." 

Victory 433 

"Dor " the newcomer essayed again. Someone touched 
his arm. It was the man who had spoken from the billiard 
table when he entered. 

"Regardez, Monsieur 1'Anglais," the man said. He took 
the bag from the newcomer and swept his other arm toward 
the ceiling. "La chambre." He touched the traveler again; 
he laid his face upon his palm and closed his eyes; he ges- 
tured again toward the ceiling and went on across the room 
toward a wooden stair without balustrade. As he passed the 
bar he took a candle stub from it and lit the candle (the big 
room and the room beyond the door where the woman sat 
were lighted by single bulbs hanging naked on cords from 
the ceiling) at the foot of the stair. 

They mounted, thrusting their fitful shadows before them, 
into a corridor narrow, chill, and damp as a tomb. The walls 
were of rough plaster not yet dried. The floor was of pine, 
without carpet or paint. Cheap metal doorknobs glinted sym- 
metrically. The sluggish air lay like a hand upon the very 
candle. They entered a room, smelling too of wet plaster, and 
even colder than the corridor; a sluggish chill almost sub- 
stantial, as though the atmosphere between the dead and 
recent walls were congealing, like a patent three-minute 
dessert. The room contained a bed, a dresser, a chair, a wash- 
stand; the bowl, pitcher, and slop basin were of American 
enamel. When the traveler touched the bed the linen was 
soundless under his hand, coarse as sacking, clinging damply 
to the hand in the dead air in which their two breathings 
vaporized in the faint candle. 

The host set the candle on the dresser. "Diner, monsieur?" 
he said. The traveler stared down at the host, incongruous in 
his correct clothes, with that strained air. His waxed mous- 
taches gleamed like faint bayonets above a cravat stripeG 
with what the host could not have known was the patterned 
coloring of a Scottish regiment. "Manger?" the host shouted. 

434 The Wasteland 

He chewed violently in pantomime. "Manger?" he roared, 
his shadow aping his gesture as he pointed toward the floor. 

"Yes," the traveler shouted in reply, their faces not a yard 
apart. "Yes. Yes." 

The host nodded violently, pointed toward the floor and 
then at the door, nodded again, went out. 

He returned below stairs. He found the woman now in 
the kitchen, at the stove. "He will eat," the host said. 

"I knew that," the woman said. 

"You would think that they would stay at home," the host 
said. "Fm glad I was not born of a race doomed to a place 
too small to hold all of us at one time." 

"Perhaps he has come to look at the war," the woman said. 

"Of course he has," the host said. "But he should have 
come four years ago. That was when we needed Englishmen 
to look at the war." 

"He was too old to come then," the woman said. "Didn't 
you see his hair?" 

"Then let him stay at home now," the host said. "He is 
no younger." 

"He may have come to look at the grave of his son," the 
woman said. 

"Him?" the host said. "That one? Fie is too cold to ever 
have had a son." 

"Perhaps you are right," the woman said. "After all, that 
is his affair. It is our affair only that he has money." 

"That's right," the host said. "A man in this business, he 
cannot pick and choose." 

"He can pick, though," the woman said. 

"Good!" the host said. "Very good! Pick! That is worth 
telling to the English himself." 

"Why not let him find it out when he leaves?" 

"Good!" the host said. "Better still. Good! Oh, good!" 

"Attention," the woman said. "Here he comes." 

Victory 435 

They listened to the traveler's steady tramp, then he ap- 
peared in the door. Against the lesser light of the biggei 
room, his dark face and his white hair looked like a kodak 

The table was set for two, a carafe of red wine at each 
place. As the traveller seated himself, the other guest en- 
tered and took the other place a small, rat-faced man who 
appeared at first glance to have no eyelashes at all. He 
tucked his napkin into the top of his vest and took up the 
soup ladle (the tureen sat between them in the center of the 
table) and offered it to the other. "Faites-moi Thonneur, 
monsieur," he said. The other bowed stiffly, accepting the 
ladle. The small man lifted the cover from the tureen. "Vous 
venez examiner ce scene de nos victoires, monsieur?" he said, 
helping himself in turn. The other looked at him. "Monsieur 
1'Anglais a peut-etre beaucoup des amis qui sont tombes en 

"A speak no French," the other said, eating. 

The little man did not eat. He held his yet unwetted spoon 
above his bowl. "What agreeable for me. I speak the Eng- 
leesh. I am Suisse, me. I speak all langue." The other did not 
reply. He ate steadily, not fast. "You ave return to see the 
grave of your galant countreemans, eh? You ave son here, 
perhaps, eh?" 

"No," the other said. He did not cease to eat. 

"No?" The other finished his soup and set the bowl aside. 
He drank some wine. "What deplorable, that man who ave," 
the Swiss said. "But it is finish now. Not?" Again the other 
said nothing. He was not looking at the Swiss. He did not 
seem to be looking at anything, with his gaunt eyes, his rigid 
moustaches upon his rigid face. "Me, I suffer too. All suffer. 
But I tell myself, What would you? It is war." 

Still the other did not answer. He ate steadily, deliberately, 
and finished his meal and rose and left the room. He lit his 

43 6 The Wasteland 

candle at the bar, where the host, leaning beside a second 
man in a corduroy coat, lifted a glass slightly to him. "Au 
bon dormir, monsieur," the host said. 

The traveler looked at the host, his face gaunt in the 
candle, his waxed moustaches rigid, his eyes in shadow. 
"What?" he said. "Yes. Yes." He turned and went toward 
the stairs. The two men at the bar watched him, his stiff, 
deliberate back. 

Ever since the train left Arras, the two women had been 
watching the other occupant of the carriage. It was a third- 
class carriage because no first-class trains ran on this line, and 
they sat with their shawled heads and the thick, still hands of 
peasants folded upon closed baskets on their laps, watching 
the man sitting opposite them the white distinction of the 
hair against the bronze, gaunt face, the needles of the mous- 
taches, the foreign-made suit and the stick on a worn and 
greasy wooden seat, looking out the window. At first they 
had just looked, ready to avert their gaze, but as the man did 
not seem to be aware of them, they began to whisper quietly 
to one another behind their hands. But the man did not seem 
to notice this, so they soon were talking in undertone, watch- 
ing with bright, alert, curious eyes the stiff, incongruous 
figure leaning a little forward on the stick, looking out a foul 
window beyond which there was nothing to see save an 
occasional shattered road and man-high stump of shattered 
tree breaking small patches of tilled land whorled with ap- 
parent unreason about islands of earth indicated by low 
signboards painted red, the islands inscrutable, desolate above 
the destruction which they wombed. Then the train, slow- 
ing, ran suddenly among tumbled brick, out of which rose 
a small house of corrugated iron bearing a name in big letters; 
they watched the man lean forward. 

"See!" one of the women said. "His mouth. He is reading 

Victory 437 

the name. What did I tell you? It is as I said. His son fell 

"Then he had lots of sons," the other woman said. "He has 
read the name each time since we left Arras. Eh! Eh! Him a 
son? That cold?" 

"They do get children, though." 

"That is why they drink whisky. Otherwise . . ." 

"That's so. They think of nothing save money and eating, 
the English." 

Presently they got out; the train went on. Then others 
entered the carriage, other peasants with muddy boots, 
carrying baskets or live or dead beasts; they in turn watched 
the rigid, motionless figure leaning at the window while the 
train ran across the ruined land and past the brick or iron 
stations among the tumbled ruins, watching his lips move as 
he read the names. "Let him look at the war, about which he 
has apparently heard at last," they told one another. "Then 
he can go home. It was not in his barnyard that it was 

"Nor in his house," a woman said. 


THE BATTALION stands at ease in the rain. It has been in rest 
billets two days, equipment has been replaced and cleaned, 
vacancies have been filled and the ranks closed up, and it now 
stands at ease with the stupid docility of sheep in the ceaseless 
rain, facing the streaming shape of the sergeant-major. 

Presently the colonel emerges from a door across the 
square. He stands in the door a moment, fastening his trench 
coat, then, followed by two A.D.C's, he steps gingerly into 
the mud in polished boots and approaches. 

"Para-a-a-de 'Shun!" the sergeant-major shouts. The 
battalion clashes, a single muffled, sullen sound. The sergeant- 

438 The Wasteland 

major turns, takes a pace toward the officers, and salutes, his 
stick beneath his armpit. The colonel jerks his stick toward 
his cap peak. 

"Stand at ease, men," he says. Again the battalion clashes, 
a single sluggish, trickling sound. The officers approach the 
guide file of the first platoon, the sergeant-major falling in 
behind the last officer. The sergeant of the first platoon takes 
a pace forward and salutes. The colonel does not respond at 
all. The sergeant falls in behind the sergeant-major, and the 
five of them pass down the company front, staring in turn 
at each rigid, forward-staring face as they pass it. First Com- 

The sergeant salutes the colonel's back and returns to his 
original position and comes to attention. The sergeant of the 
second company has stepped forward, saluted, is ignored, and 
falls in behind the sergeant-major, and they pass down the 
second company front. The colonel's trench coat sheathes 
water onto his polished boots. Mud from the earth creeps up 
his boots and meets the water and is channelled by the water 
as the mud creeps up the polished boots again. 

Third Company. The colonel stops before a soldier, his 
trench coat hunched about his shoulders where the rain 
trickles from the back of his cap, so that he looks somehow 
like a choleric and outraged bird. The other two officers, the 
sergeant-major and the sergeant halt in turn, and the five of 
them glare at the five soldiers whom they are facing. The five 
soldiers stare rigid and unwinking straight before them, their 
faces like wooden faces, their eyes like wooden eyes. 

"Sergeant," the colonel says in his pettish voice, "has this 
man shaved today?" 

"Sir!" the sergeant says in a ringing voice; the sergeant- 
major says: 

"Did this man shave today, Sergeant?" and all five of them 
glare now at the soldier, whose rigid gaze seems to pass 

Victory 439 

through and beyond them, as if they were not there. "Take 
a pace forward when you speak in ranks!" the sergeant- 
major says. 

The soldier, who has not spoken, steps out of ranks, splash- 
ing a jet of mud yet higher up the colonel's boots. 

"What is your name?" the colonel says. 

"024 1 86. Gray," the soldier raps out glibly. The company, 
the battalion, stares straight ahead. 

"Sir!" the sergeant-major thunders. 

"Sir-r," the soldier says. 

"Did you shave this morning?" the colonel says. 

"Nae, sir-r." 

"Why not?" 

"A dinna shave, sir-r." 

"You dont shave?" 

"A am nae auld enough tae shave." 

"Sir!" the sergeant-major thunders. 

"Sir-r," the soldier says. 

"You are not . . ." The colonel's voice dies somewhere 
behind his choleric glare, the trickling water from his cap 
peak. "Take his name, Sergeant-major," he says, passing on. 

The battalion stares rigidly ahead. Presently it sees the 
colonel, the two officers and the sergeant-major reappear in 
single file. At the proper place the sergeant-major halts and 
salutes the colonel's back. The colonel jerks his stick hand 
again and goes on, followed by the two officers, at a trot 
toward the door from which he had emerged. 

The sergeant-major faces the battalion again. "Para-a-a- 
de " he shouts. An indistinguishable movement passes from 
rank to rank, an indistinguishable precursor of that damp arid 
sullen clash which dies borning. The sergeant-major's stick 
has come down from his armpit; he now leans on it, as officers 
do. For a time his eye roves along the battalion front. 

"Sergeant Cunninghame!" he says at last. 

440 The Wasteland 


"Did you take that man's name?" 

There is silence for a moment a little more than a short 
moment, a little less than a long one. Then the sergeant says: 
"What man, sir?" 

"You, soldier!" the sergeant-major says. 

The battalion stands rigid. The rain lances quietly into the 
mud between it and the sergeant-major as though it were 
too spent to either hurry or cease. 

"You soldier that dont shave!" the sergeant-major says. 

"Gray, sir! " the sergeant says. 

"Gray. Double out 'ere." 

The man Gray appears without haste and tramps stolidly 
before the battalion, his kilts dark and damp and heavy as a 
wet horse-blanket. He halts, facing the sergeant-major. 

"Why didn't you shave this morning?" the sergeant-major 

"A am nae auld enough tae shave," Gray says. 

"Sir!" the sergeant-major says. 

Gray stares rigidly beyond the sergeant-major's shoulder. 

"Say sir when addressing a first-class warrant officer!" the 
sergeant-major says. Gray stares doggedly past his shoulder, 
his face beneath his vizorless bonnet as oblivious of the cold 
lances of rain as though it were granite. The sergeant-major 
raises his voice: 

"Sergeant Cunninghame!" 


"Take this man's name for insubordination also." 

"Very good, sir! " 

The sergeant-major looks at Gray again. "And I'll see that 
you get the penal battalion, my man. Fall in!" 

Gray turns without haste and returns to his place in ranks, 
the sergeant-major watching him. The sergeant-major raises 
his voice again: 

Victory 441 

"Sergeant Cunninghame!" 


"You did not take that man's name when ordered. Let that 
happen again and you'll be for it yourself." 

"Very good, sir!" 

"Carry on!" the sergeant-major says. 

"But why did ye no shave?" the corporal asked him. They 
were back in billets: a stone barn with leprous walls, where 
no light entered, squatting in the ammoniac air on wet straw 
about a reeking brazier. "Ye kenned we were for inspection 
thae mor-rn." 

"A am nae auld enough tae shave," Gray said. 

"But ye kenned thae colonel would mar-rk ye on parade." 

"A am nae auld enough tae shave," Gray repeated dog- 
gedly and without heat. 


"FOR TWO HUNDRED YEARS," Matthew Gray said, "there's 
never a day, except Sunday, has passed but there is a hull 
rising on Clyde or a hull going out of Clydemouth with a 
Gray-driven nail in it." He looked at young Alec across his 
steel spectacles, his neck bowed. "And not excepting their 
godless Sabbath hammering and sawing either. Because if a 
hull could be built in a day, Grays could build it," he added 
with dour pride. "And now, when you are big enough to 
go down to the yards with your grandadder and me and 
take a man's place among men, to be trusted manlike with 
hammer and saw yersel." 

"Whisht, Matthew," old Alec said. "The lad can saw as 
straight a line and drive as mony a nail a day as yersel or 
even me." 

Matthew paid his father no attention. He continued to 
speak his slow, considered words, watching his oldest son 

442 The Wasteland 

across the spectacles. "And with John Wesley not old 
enough by two years, and wee Matthew by ten, and your 
grandfather an auld man will soon be " 

"Whisht," old Alec said. "I'm no but sixty-eight. Will you 
be telling the lad he'll make his bit journey to London and 
come back to find me in the parish house, mayhap? 'Twill 
be over by Christmastide." 

"Christmasride or no," Matthew said, "a Gray, a ship- 
wright, has no business at an English war." 

"Whisht ye," old Alec said. He rose and went to the chim- 
ney cupboard and returned, carrying a box. It was of wood, 
dark and polished with age, the corners bound with iron, and 
fitted with an enormous iron lock which any child with a 
hairpin could have solved. From his pocket he took an iron 
key almost as big as the lock. He opened the box and lifted 
carefully out a small velvet-covered jeweler's box and opened 
it in turn. On the satin lining lay a medal, a bit of bronze on 
a crimson ribbon: a Victoria Cross. "I kept the hulls going out 
of Clydemouth while your uncle Simon was getting this bit 
of brass from the Queen," old Alec said. "I heard naught of 
complaint. And if need be, I'll keep them going out while 
Alec serves the Queen a bit himsel. Let the lad go," he said. 
He put the medal back into the wooden box and locked it. 
"A bit fighting winna hurt the lad. If I were his age, or yours 
either, for that matter, I'd gang mysel. Alec, lad, hark ye. 
Ye'll see if they'll no take a hale lad of sixty-eight and I'll 
gang wi ye and leave the auld folk like Matthew to do the 
best they can. Nay, Matthew; dinna ye thwart the lad; have 
no the Grays ever served the Queen in her need?" 

So young Alec went to enlist, descending the hill on a 
weekday in his Sunday clothes, with a New Testament and 
a loaf of homebaked bread tied in a handkerchief. And this 
was the last day's work which old Alec ever did, for soon 
after that, one morning Matthew descended the hill to the 

Victory 443 

shipyard alone, leaving old Alec at home. And after that, on 
the sunny days (and sometimes on the bad days too, until his 
daughter-in-law found him and drove him back into the 
house) he would sit shawled in a chair on the porch, gazing 
south and eastward, calling now and then to his son's wife 
within the house: "Hark now. Do you hear them? The 

"I hear nothing,' 7 the daughter-in-law would say. "It's only 
the sea at Kinkeadbight. Come into the house, now. Matthew 
will be displeased." 

"Whisht, woman. Do you think there is a Gray in the 
world could let off a gun and me not know the sound of it?" 

They had a letter from him shortly after he enlisted, from 
England, in which he said that being a soldier, England, was 
different from being a shipwright, Clydeside, and that he 
would write again later. Which he did, each month or so, 
writing that soldiering was different from building ships and 
that it was still raining. Then they did not hear from him for 
seven months. But his mother and father continued to write 
him a joint letter on the first Monday of each month, letters 
almost identical with the previous one, the previous dozen: 

We are well. Ships are going out of Clyde faster than they 
can sink them. You still have the Book? 

This would be in his father's slow, indomitable hand. Then, 
in his mother's: 

Are you 'well? Do you need anything? Jessie and I are knit- 
ting the stockings and will send them. Alec, Alec. 

He received this one during the seven months, during his 
term in the penal battalion, forwarded to him by his old 
corporal, since he had not told his people of his changed life. 
He answered it, huddled among his fellow felons, squatting 

444 The Wastelana 

in the mud with newspapers buttoned inside his tunic and 
his head and feet wrapped in strips of torn blanket: 

/ am 'well. Yes I still have the Book (not telling them that his 
platoon was using it to light tobacco with and that they were 
now well beyond Lamentations). It still rains. Love to Gran- 
dadder and Jessie and Matthew and John Wesley. 

Then his time in the penal battalion was up. He returned 
to his old company, his old platoon, finding some new faces, 
and a letter: 

We are 'well. Ships are going out of Clyde yet. You have a 
new sister. Your Mother is well. 

He folded the letter and put it away. "A see mony new 
faces in thae battalion," he said to the corporal. "We ha a 
new sair-rgeant-major too, A doot not?" 

"Naw," the corporal said. " 'Tis the same one." He was 
looking at Gray, his gaze intent, speculative; his face cleared. 
"Ye ha shaved thae mor-rn," he said. 

"Ay," Gray said. "Am auld enough tae shave noo." 

That was the night on which the battalion was to go up to 
Arras. It was to move at midnight, so he answered the letter 
at once: 

/ am well. Love to Grandadder and Jessie and Matthew and 
John Wesley and the baby. 

"Morning! Morning!" The General, lap-robed and 
hooded, leans from his motor and waves his gloved hand and 
shouts cheerily to them as they slog past the car on the 
Bapaume road, taking the ditch to pass. 

"A's a cheery auld card," a voice says. 

"Awfficers," a second drawls; he falls to cursing as he slips 
in the greaselike mud, trying to cling to the crest of the 
kneedeep ditch. 

Victory 445 

"Aweel," a third says, "thae awfficers wud gang tae thae 
war-r too, A doot not." 

"Why dinna they gang then?" a fourth says. "Thae war-r 
is no back that way." 

Platoon by platoon they slip and plunge into the ditch and 
drag their heavy feet out of the clinging mud and pass the 
halted car and crawl terrifically onto the crown of the road 
again: "A says tae me, a says: 'Fritz has a new gun that will 
carry to Par-ris,' a says, and A says tae him: * 'Tis nawthin: 
a has one that will hit our Cor-rps Headquar-rters.' " 

"Morning! Morning!" The General continues to wave 
his glove and shout cheerily as the battalion detours into the 
ditch and heaves itself back onto the road again. 

They are in the trench. Until the first rifle explodes in their 
faces, not a shot has been fired. Gray is the third man. Dur- 
ing all the while that they crept between flares from shell- 
hole to shellhole, he has been working himself nearer to the 
sergeant-major and the Officer; in the glare of that first rifle 
he can see the gap in the wire toward which the Officer was 
leading them, the moiled rigid glints of the wire where bul- 
lets have nicked the mud and rust from it, and against the 
glare the tall, leaping shape of the sergeant-major. Then 
Gray, too, springs bayonet first into the trench full of grunt- 
ing shouts and thudding blows. 

Flares go up by dozens now, in the corpse glare Gray sees 
the sergeant-major methodically tossing grenades into the 
next traverse. He runs toward him, passing the Officer lean- 
ing, bent double, against the fire step. The sergeant-major 
has vanished beyond the traverse. Gray follows and comes 
upon the sergeant-major. Holding the burlap curtain aside 
with one hand, the sergeant-major is in the act of tossing a 
grenade into a dugout as if he might be tossing an orange 
hull into a cellar. 

446 The Wasteland 

The sergeant-major turns in the rocket glare. " 'Tis you, 
Gray," he says. The earth-muffled bomb thuds; the sergeant- 
major is in the act of catching another bomb from the sack 
about his neck as Gray's bayonet goes into his throat. The 
sergeant-major is a big man. He falls backward, holding the 
rifle barrel v/ith both hands against his throat, his teeth glar- 
ing, pulling Gray with him. Gray clings to the rifle. He tries 
to shake the speared body on the bayonet as he would shake 
a rat on an umbrella rib. 

He frees the bayonet. The sergeant-major falls. Gray 
reverses the rifle and hammers its butt into the sergeant- 
major's face, but the trench floor is too soft to supply any 
resistance. He glares about. His gaze falls upon a duckboard 
upended in the mud. He drags it free and slips it beneath the 
sergeant-major's head and hammers the face with his rifle- 
butt. Behind him in the first traverse the Officer is shouting: 
'Blow your whistle, Sergeant-major!" 


IN THE CITATION it told how Private Gray, on a night raid, 
one of four survivors, following the disablement of the 
Officer and the death of all the N.C.O.'s, took command of 
the situation and (the purpose of the expedition was a quick 
raid for prisoners) ; held a foothold in the enemy's front line 
until a supporting attack arrived and consolidated the posi- 
tion. The Officer told how he ordered the men back out, 
ordering them to leave him and save themselves, and how 
Gray appeared with a German machine gun from somewhere 
and, while his three companions built a barricade, overcame 
the Officer and took from him his Very pistol and fired the 
colored signal which called for the attack; all so quickly that 
support arrived before the enemy could counterattack or put 
down a barrage. 

Victory 447 

It is doubtful if his people ever saw the citation at all. Any- 
way, the letters which he received from them during his 
sojourn in hospital, the tenor of them, were unchanged: "We 
are well. Ships are still going out." 

His next letter home was once more months late. He wrote 
it when he was sitting up again, in London: 

/ have been sick but I am better noiv. I have a ribbon like in 
the box but not all red. The Queen ivas there. Love to Gran- 
dadder and Jessie and Mattheiv and John Wesley and the 

The reply was written on Friday: 

Your mother is glad that you are better. Your grandfather is 
dead. The baby's name is Elizabeth. We are well. Your 
mother sends her love. 

His next letter was three months later, in winter again: 

My hurt is well. 1 am going to a school for officers. Love to 
Jessie and Matthew and John Wesley and Elizabeth. 

Matthew Gray pondered over this letter for a long while; 
so long that the reply was a week late, written on the second 
Monday instead of the first. He wrote it carefully, waiting 
until his family was in bed. It was such a long letter, or he 
had been at it so long, that after a time his wife came into the 
room in her nightdress. 

"Go back to bed," he told her. "I'll be coming soon. 'Tis 
something to be said to the lad." 

When at last he laid the pen down and sat back to reread 
the letter, it was a long one, written out slowly and deliber- 
ately and without retraction or blot: 

. . . your bit ribbon . . . for that way lies vainglory and pride. 
The pride and vainglory of going for an officer. Never mis- 

448 The Wasteland 

call your birth, Alec. You are not a gentleman. You are a 
Scottish shipwright. If your grandfather 'were here he would 
not be last to tell you so. . . . We are glad your hurt is well. 
Your mother sends her love. 

He sent home the medal, and his photograph in the new 
tunic with the pips and ribbon and the barred cuffs. But he 
did not go home himself. He returned to Flanders in the 
spring, with poppies blowing in the churned beet- and cab- 
bage-fields. When his leaves came, he spent them in London, 
in the haunts of officers, not telling his people that he had 
any leave. 

He still had the Book. Occasionally he came upon it among 
his effects and opened it at the jagged page where his life 
had changed: . . . and a voice said, Peter, raise thyself; kill 

Often his batman would watch him as, unawares and ob- 
livious, he turned the Book and mused upon the jagged page 
the ranker, the gaunt, lonely man with a face that belied 
his years or lack of them: a sobriety, a profound and mature 
calm, a grave and deliberate conviction of expression and 
gesture ("like a mout be Haig hissel," the batman said) 
watching him at his clean table, writing steadily and slowly, 
his tongue in his cheek as a child writes: 

/ am well. It has not rained in a fortnight. Love to Jessie and 
Matthew and John Wesley and Elizabeth. 

Four days ago the battalion came down from the lines. It 
has lost its major and two captains and most of the subalterns, 
so that now the remaining captain is major, and two sub- 
alterns and a sergeant have the companies. Meanwhile, re- 
placements have come up, the ranks are filled, and the 
battalion is going in again tomorrow. So today K Company 
stands with ranks open for inspection while the subaltern- 
captain (his name is Gray) moves slowly along each platoon 

Victory 449 

He passes from man to man, slowly, thoroughly, the ser- 
geant behind him. He stops. 

"Where is your trenching tool?" he says. 

"Blawn " the soldier begins. Then he ceases, staring 
rigidly before him. 

"Blawn out of your pack, eh?" the captain finishes for 
him. "Since when? What battles have ye taken par-rt in 
since four days?" 

The soldier stares rigidly across the drowsy street. The 
captain moves on. "Take his name, Sergeant." 

He moves on to the second platoon, to the third. He halts 
again. He looks the soldier up and down. 

"What is your name?" 

"010801 McLan, sir-r." 


"Replacement, sir-r." 

The captain moves on. "Take his name, Sergeant. Rifle's 

The sun is setting. The village rises in black silhouette 
against the sunset; the river gleams in mirrored fire. The 
bridge across the river is a black arch upon which slowly and 
like figures cut from black paper, men are moving. 

The party crouches in the roadside ditch while the captain 
and the sergeant peer cautiously across the parapet of the 
road. "Do ye make them out?" the captain says in a low 

"Huns, sir-r," the sergeant whispers. "A ken their-r hel- 

Presently the column has crossed the bridge. The captain 
and the sergeant crawl back into the ditch, where the party 
crouches, among them a wounded man with a bandaged head. 
"Keep yon man quiet, now," the captain says. 

He leads the way along the ditch until they reach the out- 

450 The Wasteland 

skirts of the village. Here they are out of the sun, and here 
they sit quietly beneath a wall, surrounding the wounded 
man, while the captain and the sergeant again crawl away. 
They return in five minutes. "Fix bayonets," the sergeant 
says in a low voice. "Quiet, now." 

"Wull A stay wi thae hur-rt lad, Sair-rgent?" one whispers, 

"Nay," the sergeant says. "A'll tak's chance wi us. For- 

They steal quietly along the wall, behind the captain. The 
wall approaches at right angles to the street, the road which 
crosses the bridge. The captain raises his hand. They halt 
and watch him as he peers around the corner. They are op- 
posite the bridgehead. It and the road are deserted; the village 
dreams quietly in the setting sun. Against the sky beyond the 
village the dust of the retreating column hangs, turning to 
rose and gold. 

Then they hear a sound, a short, guttural word. Not ten 
yards away and behind a ruined wall leveled breast-high and 
facing the bridge, four men squat about a machine gun. The 
captain raises his hand again. They grasp their rifles: a rush 
of hobnails on cobblestones, a cry of astonishment cut sharply 
off; blows, short, hard breaths, curses; not a shot. 

The man with the bandaged head begins to laugh, shrilly, 
until someone hushes him with a hand that tastes like brass 
Under the captain's direction they bash in the door of the 
house and drag the gun and the four bodies into it. They 
hoist the gun upstairs and set it up in a window looking down 
upon the bridgehead. The sun sinks further, the shadows fall 
long and quiet across village and river. The man with the 
bandaged head babbles to himself. 

Another column swings up the road, dogged and orderly 
beneath coalhod helmets. It crosses the bridge and passes on 
through the village. A party detaches itself from the rear of 
the column and splits into three squads. Two of them have 

Victory 45 1 

machine guns, which they set up on opposite sides of the 
street, the near one utilizing the barricade behind which the 
other gun had been captured. The third squad returns to the 
bridge, carrying sappers' tools and explosive. The sergeant 
tells off six of the nineteen men, who descend the stairs 
silently. The captain remains with the gun in the window. 

Again there is a brief rush, a scuffle, blows. From the win- 
dow the captain sees the heads of the machine-gun crew 
across the street turn, then the muzzle of the gun swings, 
firing. The captain rakes them once with his gun, then he 
sweeps with it the party on the bridge, watching it break 
like a covey of quail for the nearest wall. The captain holds 
the gun on them. They wilt running and dot the white road 
and become motionless. Then he swings the gun back to the 
gun across the street. It ceases. 

He gives another order. The remaining men, except the 
man with the bandage, run down the stairs. Half of them 
3top at the gun beneath the window and drag it around. The 
others dash on across the street, toward the second gun. 
They are halfway across when the other gun rattles. The 
running men plunge as one in midstep. Their kilts whip for- 
ward and bare their pale thighs. The gun rakes across the 
doorway where the others are freeing the first gun of bodies. 
As the captain sweeps his gun down again, dust puffs from 
the left side of the window, his gun rings metallically, some- 
thing sears along his arm and across his ribs, dust puffs from 
the right side of the window. He rakes the other gun again. 
It ceases. He continues to fire into the huddled clump about 
it long after the gun has ceased. 

The dark earth bites into the sun's rim. The street is now 
all in shadow; a final level ray comes into the room, and fades. 
Behind him in the twilight the wounded man laughs, then 
his laughter sinks into a quiet contented gibberish. 

Just before dark another column crosses the bridge. There 

452 The Wasteland 

is still enough light for it to be seen that these troops wear 
khaki and that their helmets are flat. But likely there is no 
one to see, because when a par^y mounted to the second 
story and found the captain propped in the window beside 
the cold gun, they thought that he was dead. 

This time Matthew Gray saw the citation. Someone 
clipped it from the Gazette and sent it to him, and he sent it 
in turn to his son in the hospital, with a letter: 

. . . Since you must go to a 'war we are glad that you are 
doing well in it. Your mother thinks that you have done your 
part and that you should come home. But women do not 
understand such things. But I myself think that it is time 
they stopped fighting. What is the good in the high wages 
when food is so high that there is profit -for none save the 
profiteers. When a war gets to where the battles do not even 
prosper the people who win them, it is time to stop. 


IN THE BED NEXT HIS, and later in the chair next his on the 
long glassed veranda, there was a subaltern. They used to 
talk. Or rather, the subaltern talked while Gray listened. He 
talked of peace, of what he would do when it was over, talk- 
ing as if it were about finished, as if it would not last past 

"We'll be back out there by Christmas," Gray said. 

"Gas cases? They don't send gas cases out again. They 
have to be cured." 

"We will be cured." 

"But not in time. It will be over by Christmas. It can't 
last another year. You don't believe me, do you? Sometimes 
I believe you want to go back. But it will be. It will be fin- 
ished by Christmas, and then I'm off, Canada. Nothing at 

Victory 453 

home for us now." He looked at the other, at the gaunt, 
wasted figure with almost white hair, lying with closed eyes 
in the fall sunlight. "You'd better come with me." 

"I'll meet you in Givenchy on Christmas Day," Gray said. 

But he didn't. He was in the hospital on the eleventh of 
November, hearing the bells, and he was still there on Christ- 
mas Day, where he received a letter from home: 

You can come on home now. It 'will not be too soon now. 
They will need ships worse than ever now, now that the 
pride and the vainglory have worn themselves out. 

The medical officer greeted him cheerfully. "Dammit, 
stuck here, when I know a place in Devon where I could 
hear a nightingale, by jove." He thumped Gray's chest. "Not 
much: just a bit of a murmur. Give you no trouble, if you'll 
stop away from wars from now on. Might keep you from 
getting in again, though." He waited for Gray to laugh, but 
Gray didn't laugh. "Well, it's all finished now, damn them. 
Sign here, will you." Gray signed. "Forget it as quickly as 
it began, I hope. Well " He extended his hand, smiling his 
antiseptic smile. "Cheer-O, Captain. And good luck." 

Matthew Gray, descending the hill at seven oclock in the 
morning, saw the man, the tall, hospital-colored man in city 
clothing and carrying a stick, and stopped. 

"Alec?" he said. "Alec." They shook hands. "I could not 
I did not . . ." He looked at his son, at the white hair, the 
waxed moustaches. "You have two ribbons now for the box, 
you have written." Then Matthew turned back up the hill at 
seven oclock in the morning. "We'll go to your mother." 

Then Alec Gray reverted for an instant. Perhaps he had 
not progressed as far as he thought, or perhaps he had been 
climbing a hill, and the return was not a reversion so much 

454 The Wasteland 

as something like an avalanche waiting the pebble, momen- 
tary though it was to be. "The shipyard, Father." 

His father strode firmly on, carrying his lunchpail. " 'Twill 
wait," he said. "We'll go to your mother." 

His mother met him at the door. Behind her he saw young 
Matthew, a man now, and John Wesley, and Elizabeth whom 
he had never seen. "You did not wear your uniform home," 
young Matthew said. 

"No/ he said. "No, I" 

"Your mother had wanted to see you in your regimentals 
and all," his father said. 

"No," his mother said. "No! Never! Never!" 

"Hush, Annie/ ' his father said. "Being a captain now, with 
two ribbons now for the box. This is false modesty. Ye hae 
shown course; ye should have But 'tis of no moment: the 
proper unifor - for a Gray is an overall and a hammer." 

"Ay, sir," Alec said, who had long since found out that 
no man has courage but that any man may blunder blindly 
into valor as one stumbles into an open manhole in the street. 

He did not tell his father until that night, after his mother 
and the children had gone to bed. "I am going back to Eng- 
land. I have work promised there." 

"Ah," his father said. "At Bristol, perhaps? They build 
ships there." 

The lamp glowed, touching with faint gleams the black 
and polished surface of the box on the mantel-shelf. There 
was a wind getting up, hollowing out the sky like a dark 
bowl, carving house and hill and headland out of dark space. 
" 'Twill be blowing out yon the night," his father said. 

"There are other things," Alec said. "I have made friends, 
you see." 

His father removed the iron-rimmed spectacles. "You have 
made friends. Officers and such, I doubt not?" 

Victory 455 

"Yes, sir." 

"And friends are good to have, to sit about the hearth of 
nights and talk with. But beyond that, only them that love 
you will bear your faults. You must love a man well to put 
up with all his trying ways, Alec." 

"But they are not that sort of friends, sir. They are . . ." 
He ceased. He did not look at his father. Matthew sat, slowly 
polishing the spectacles with his thumb. They could hear the 
wind. "If this fails, I'll come back to the shipyard." 

His father watched him gravely, polishing the spectacles 
slowly. "Ship wrights are not made like that, Alec. To fear 
God, to do your work like it was your own hull you were 
putting the ribs in . . ." He moved. "We'll see what the Book 
will say." He replaced the glasses. On the table was a heavy, 
brass-bound Bible. He opened it; the words seemed to him 
to rise to meet him from the page. Yet he read them, aloud: 
". . . and the captains of thousands and the captains of ten 
thousands ... A paragraph of pride. He faced his son, bowing 
his neck to see across the glasses. "You will go to London, 

"Yes, sir," Alec said. 


His POSITION WAS WAITING. It was in an office. He had already 
had cards made: Captain A. Gray, M.C., D.S.M., and on 
his return to London he joined the Officers' Association, 
donating to the support of the widows and orphans. 

He had rooms in the proper quarter, and he would walk 
to and from the office, with his cards and his waxed mous- 
taches, his sober correct clothes and his stick carried in a 
manner inimitable, at once jaunty and unobtrusive, giving 
his coppers to blind and maimed in Piccadilly, asking of them 
the names of their regiments. Once a month he wrote home: 

456 The Wasteland 

I am 'well. Love to Jessie and Matthew and John Wesley and 

During that first year Jessie was married. He sent her a 
gift of plate, stinting himself a little to do so, drawings from 
his savings. He was saving, not against old age; he believed 
too firmly in the Empire to do that, who had surrendered 
completely to the Empire like a woman, a bride. He was 
saving against the time when he would recross the Channel 
among the dead scenes of his lost and found life. 

That was three years later. He was already planning to 
ask for leave, when one day the manager broached the sub- 
ject himself. With one correct bag he went to France. But 
he did not bear eastward at once. He went to the Riviera; 
for a week he lived like a gentleman, spending his money 
like a gentleman, lonely, alone in that bright aviary of the 
svelte kept women of all Europe. 

That was why those who saw him descend from the Medi- 
terranean Express that morning in Paris said, "Here is a 
rich milord," and why they continued to say it in the hard- 
benched third-class trains, as he sat leaning forward on his 
stick, lip-moving the names on sheet-iron stations about the 
battered and waking land lying now three years quiet be- 
neath the senseless and unbroken battalions of days. 

He reached London and found what he should have known 
before he left. His position was gone. Conditions, the man- 
ager told him, addressing him punctiliously by his rank. 

What savings he had left melted slowly; he spent the last 
of them on a black silk dress for his mother, with the letter: 

/ ant 'well. Love to Matthew and John Wesley and Elizabeth. 

He called upon his friends, upon the officers whom he had 
known. One, the man he knew best, gave him whisky in a 
comfortable room with a fire: "You aren't working now? 

Victory 457 

Rotten luck. By the way, you remember Whiteby? He had 
a company in the th. Nice chap: no people, though. He 
killed himself last week. Conditions." 

"Oh. Did he? Yes. I remember him. Rotten luck." 

"Yes. Rotten luck. Nice chap." 

He no longer gave his pennies to the blind and the maimed 
in Piccadilly. He needed them for papers: 

Artisans needed 

Become stonemason 

Men to drive ?no tor cars. War record not necessary 

Shop-assistants (must be under twenty -one) 

Shipwrights needed 

and at last: 

Gentleman ivith social address and connections to meet out- 
of-toivn clients. Temporary 

He got the place, and with his waxed moustaches and his 
correct clothes he revealed the fleshpots of the West End 
to Birmingham and Leeds. It was temporary. 

House pain ters 

Winter was temporary, too. In the spring he took his 
waxed moustaches and his ironed clothes into Surrey, with 
a set of books, an encyclopedia, on commission. He sold all 
his things save what he stood in, and gave up his rooms in 

He still had his stick, his waxed moustaches, his cards. 
Surrey, gentle, green, mild. A tight little house in a tight 
little garden. An oldish man in a smoking jacket puttering 
in a flower bed: "Good day, sir. Might I " 

The man in the smoking jacket looks up. "Go to the side, 
can't you? Don't come this way." 

458 The Wasteland 

He goes to the side entrance. A slatted gate, freshly white, 
bearing an enameled plate: 



He passes through and knocks at a tidy door smug beneath 
a vine. "Good day, miss. May I see the " 

"Go away. Didn't you see the sign on the gate?" 

"But I" 

"Go away, or I'll call the master." 

In the fall he returned to London. Perhaps he could not 
have said why himself. Perhaps it was beyond any saying, 
instinct perhaps bringing him back to be present at the in- 
stant out of all time of the manifestation, apotheosis, of his 
life which had died again. Anyway, he was there, still with 
his waxed moustaches, erect, his stick clasped beneath his 
left armpit, among the Household troops in brass cuirasses, 
on dappled geldings, and Guards in scarlet tunics, and the 
Church militant in stole and surplice and Prince defenders 
of God in humble mufti, all at attention for two minutes, 
listening to despair. He still had thirty shillings, and he re- 
plenished his cards: Captain A. Gray, M.C., D.S.M. 

It is one of those spurious, pale days like a sickly and 
premature child of spring while spring itself is still weeks 
away. In the thin sunlight buildings fade upward into misty 
pinks and golds. Women wear violets pinned to their furs, 
appearing to bloom themselves like flowers in the languorous, 
treacherous air. 

It is the women who look twice at the man standing against 
the wall at a corner: a gaunt man with white hair, and 
moustaches twisted into frayed points, with a bleached and 
frayed regimental scarf in a celluloid collar, a once-good 
suit now threadbare yet apparently pressed within twenty- 

Victory 459 

four hours, standing against the wall with closed eyes, a 
dilapidated hat held bottom-up before him. 

He stood there for a long time, until someone touched his 
arm. It was a constable. "Move along, sir. Against orders." 
In his hat were seven pennies and three halfpence. He 
bought a cake of soap and a little food. 

Another anniversary came and passed; he stood again, his 
stick at his armpit, among the bright, silent uniforms, the 
quiet throng in either frank or stubborn cast-offs, with 
patient, bewildered faces. In his eyes now is not that hopeful 
resignation of a beggar, but rather that bitterness, that echo 
as of bitter and unheard laugher of a hunchback. 

A meager fire burns on the sloping cobbles. In the fitful 
light the damp, fungus-grown wall of the embankment and 
the stone arch of the bridge loom. At the foot of the cobbled 
slope the invisible river clucks and gurgles with the tide. 

Five figures lie about the fire, some with heads covered 
as though in slumber, others smoking and talking. One man 
sits upright, his back to the wall, his hands lying beside him; 
he is blind: he sleeps that way. He says that he is afraid to 
lie down. 

"Cant you tell you are lying down, without seeing you 
are?" another says. 

"Something might happen," the blind man says. 

"What? Do you think they would give you a shell, even 
if it would bring back your sight?" 

"They'd give him the shell, all right," a third said. 

"Ow. Why dont they line us all up and put down a bloody 
barrage on us?" 

"Was that how he lost his sight?" a fourth says. "A shell?" 

"Ow. He was at Mons. A dispatch rider, on a motorbike. 
Tell them about it, mate." 

The blind man lifts his face a little. Otherwise he does not 

460 The Wasteland 

move. He speaks in a flat voice. "She had the bit of scar on 
her wrist. That was how I could tell. It was me put the scar 
on her wrist, you might say. We was working in the shop 
one day. I had picked up an old engine and we was fitting it 
onto a bike so we could " 

"What?" the fourth says. "What's he talking about?" 

"Shhhh," the first says. "Not so loud. He's talking about 
his girl. He had a bit of a bike shop on the Brighton Road 
and they were going to marry." He speaks in a low tone, his 
voice just under the weary, monotonous voice of the blind 
man. "Had their picture taken and all the day he enlisted 
and got his uniform. He had it with hii for a while, until one 
day he lost it. He was fair wild. So at last we got a bit of a 
card about the same size of the picture. 'Here's your picture, 
mate/ we says. 'Hold onto it this time.' So he's still got the 
card. Likely he'll show it to you before he's done. So dont 
you let on." 

"No," the other says. "I shant let on." 

The blind man talks. " got them at the hospital to write 
her a letter, and sure enough, here she come. I could tell her 
by the bit of scar on her wrist. Her voice sounded different, 
but then everything sounded different since. But I could tell 
by the scar. We would sit and hold hands, and I could touch 
the bit of scar inside her left wrist. In the cinema too. I 
would touch the scar and it would be like I " 

"The cinema?" the fourth says. "Him?" 

"Yes," the other says. "She would take him to the cinema, 
the comedies, so he could hear them laughing." 

The blind man talks. " told me how the pictures hurt 
her eyes, and that she would leave me at the cinema and 
when it was over she would come and fetch me. So I said it 
was all right. And the next night it was again. And I said it 
was all right. And the next night I told her I wouldn't go 
either. I said we would stop at home, at the hospital. And 

Victory 461 

then she didn't say anything for a long while. I could hear 
her breathing. Then she said it was all right. So after that we 
didn't go to the cinema. We would just sit, holding hands, 
and me feeling the scar now and then. We couldn't talk loud 
in the hospital, so we would whisper. But mostly we didn't 
talk. We just held hands. And that was for eight nights. I 
counted. Then it was the eighth night. We were sitting 
there, with the other hand in my hand, and me touching the 
scar now and then. Then on a sudden the hand jerked away. 
I could hear her standing up. 'Listen,' she says. 'This cant go 
on any longer. You will have to know sometime,' she says. 
And I says, 'I dont want to know but one thing. What is 
your name?' I says. She told me her name; one of the nurses. 
And she says " 

"What?" the fourth says. "What is this?" 

"He told you," the first said. "It was one of the nurses in 
the hospital. The girl had been buggering off with another 
fellow and left the nurse for him to hold her hand, thinking 
he was fooled." 

"But how did he know?" the fourth says. 

"Listen," the first says. 

" 'and you knew all the time/ she says, 'since the first 
time?' 'It was the scar,' I says. 'You've got it on the wrong 
wrist. You've got it on your right wrist,' I says. 'And two 
nights ago, I lifted up the edge of it a bit. What is it,' I says. 
'Courtplaster? ' " The blind man sits against the wall, his face 
lifted a little, his hands motionless beside him. "That's how 
I knew, by the scar. Thinking they could fool me, when it 
was me put the scar on her, you might say " 

The prone figure farthest from the fire lifts its head. 
"Hup," he says; "ere e comes." 

The others turn as one and look toward the entrance. 

"Here who comes?" the blind man says. "Is it the bob- 

462 The Wasteland 

They do not answer. They watch the man who enters: 
a tall man with a stick. They cease to talk, save the blind 
man, watching the tall man come among them. "Here who 
comes, mates?" the blind man says. "Mates!" 

The newcomer passes them, and the fire; he does not look 
at them. He goes on. "Watch, now," the second says. The 
blind man is now leaning a little forward; his hands fumble 
at the ground beside him as though he were preparing to 

"Watch who?" he says. "What do you see?" 

They do not answer. They are watching the newcomer 
covertly, attentively, as he disrobes and then, a white 
shadow, a ghostly gleam in the darkness, goes down to the 
water and washes himself, slapping his body hard with icy 
and filthy handfuls of river water. He returns to the fire; 
they turn their faces quickly aside, save the blind man (he 
still sits forward, his arms propped beside him as though on 
the point of rising, his wan face turned toward the sound, 
the movement) and one other. "Yer stones is ot, sir," this 
one says. "I've ad them right in the blaze." 

"Thanks," the newcomer says. He still appears to be 
utterly oblivious of them, so they watch him again, quietly, 
as he spreads his sorry garments on one stone and takes a 
second stone from the fire and irons them. While he is 
dressing, the man who spoke to him goes down to the water 
and returns with the cake of soap which he had used. Still 
watching, they see the newcomer rub his fingers on the cake 
of soap and twist his moustaches into points. 

"A bit more on the left one, sir," the man holding the 
soap says. The newcomer soaps his fingers and twists his left 
moustache again, the other man watching him, his head bent 
and tilted a little back, in shape and attitude and dress like 
a caricatured scarecrow. 

"Right, now?" the newcomer says. 

Victory 463 

"Right, sir," the scarecrow says. He retreats into the dark- 
ness and returns without the cake of soap, and carrying in- 
stead the hat and the stick. The newcomer takes them. From 
his pocket he takes a coin and puts it into the scarecrow's 
hand. The scarecrow touches his cap; the newcomer is gone. 
They watch him, the tall shape, the erect back, the stick, 
until he disappears. 

"What do you see, mates?" the blind man says. "Tell a 
man what you see." 


AMONG THE DEMOBILIZED officers who emigrated from Eng- 
land after the Armistice was a subaltern named Walkley. He 
went out to Canada, where he raised wheat and prospered, 
both in pocket and in health. So much so that, had he been 
walking out of the Gare de Lyon in Paris instead of in Pic- 
cadilly Circus on this first evening (it is Christmas eve) of 
his first visit home, they would have said, "Here is not only 
a rich milord; it is a well one." 

He had been in London just long enough to outfit himself 
with the beginning of a wardrobe, and in his new clothes 
(bought of a tailor which in the old days he could not have 
afforded) he was enjoying himself too much to even go 
anywhere. So he just walked the streets, among the cheerful 
throngs, until suddenly he stopped dead still, staring at a face. 
The man had almost white hair, moustaches waxed to needle 
points. He wore a frayed scarf in which could be barely 
distinguished the colors and pattern of a regiment. His 
threadbare clothes were freshly ironed and he carried a stick. 
He was standing at the curb, and he appeared to be saying 
something to the people who passed, and Walkley moved 
suddenly forward, his hand extended. But the other man only 
stared at him with eyes that were perfectly dead. 

464 The Wasteland 

"Gray," Walkley said, "don't you remember me?" The 
Other stared at him with that dead intensity. "We were in 
hospital together. I went out to Canada. Don't you remem- 

"Yes," the other said. "I remember you. You are Walk- 
ley." Then he quit looking at Walkley. He moved a little 
aside, turning to the crowd again, his hand extended; it was 
only then that Walkley saw that the hand contained three or 
four boxes of the matches which may be bought from any 
tobacconist for a penny a box. "Matches? Matches, sir?" he 
said. "Matches? Matches?" 

Walkley moved also, getting again in front of the other. 
"Gray" he said. 

The other looked at Walkley again, this time with a kind 
of restrained yet raging impatience. "Let me alone, you son 
of a bitch!" he said, turning immediately toward the crowd 
again, his hand extended. "Matches! Matches, sir!" he 

Walkley moved on. He paused again, half turning, looking 
back at the gaunt face above the waxed moustaches. Again 
the other looked him full in the face, but the glance passed 
on, as though without recognition. Walkley went on. He 
walked swiftly. "My God," he said. "I think I am going 
to vomit." 


THE PARTY GOES ON, skirting the edge of the barrage weaving 
down into shell craters old and new, crawling out again. 
Two men half drag, half carry between them a third, while 
two others carry the three rifles. The third man's head is 
bound in a bloody rag; he stumbles his aimless legs along, 
his head lolling, sweat channeling slowly down his mud- 
crusted face. 

The barrage stretches on and on across the plain, distant, 
impenetrable. Occasionally a small wind comes up from 
nowhere and thins the dun smoke momentarily upon clumps 
of bitten poplars. The party enters and crosses a field which 
a month ago was sown to wheat and where yet wheatspears 
thrust and cling stubbornly in the churned soil, among scraps 
of metal and seething hunks of cloth. 

It crosses the field and comes to a canal bordered with tree 
stumps sheared roughly at a symmetrical five-foot level. The 
men flop and drink of the contaminated water and fill their 
water bottles. The two bearers let the wounded man slip 
to earth; he hangs lax on the canal bank with both arms in 
the water and his head too, had not the others held him up. 
One of them raises water in his helmet, but the wounded 
man cannot swallow. So they set him upright and the other 
holds the helmet brim to his lips and refills the helmet and 
pours the water on the wounded man's head, sopping the 


466 The Wasteland 

bandage. Then he takes a filthy rag from his pocket and 
dries the wounded man's face with clumsy gentleness. 

The captain, the subaltern and the sergeant, still standing, 
are poring over a soiled map. Beyond the canal the ground 
rises gradually; the canal cutting reveals the chalk formation 
of the land in pallid strata. The captain puts the map away 
and the sergeant speaks the men to their feet, not loud. The 
two bearers raise the wounded man and they follow the 
canal bank, coming after a while to a bridge formed by a 
water-logged barge hull lashed bow and stern to either bank, 
and so pass over. Here they halt again while once more the 
captain and the subaltern consult the map. 

Gunfire comes across the pale spring noon like a prolonged 
clashing of hail on an endless metal roof. As they go on the 
chalky soil rises gradually underfoot. The ground is dryly 
rough, shaling, and the going is harder still for the two who 
carry the wounded man. But when they would stop the 
wounded man struggles and wrenches free and staggers on 
alone, his hands at his head, and stumbles, falling. The bearers 
catch and raise him and hold him muttering between them 
and wrenching his arms. He is muttering ". . . bonnet . . ." 
and he frees his hands and tugs again at his bandage. The 
commotion passes forward. The captain looks back and 
stops; the party halts also, unbidden, and lowers rifles. 

"A's pickin at's bandage, sir-r," one of the bearers tells 
the captain. They let the man sit down between them; the 
captain kneels beside him. 

". . . bonnet . . . bonnet," the man mutters. The captain 
loosens the bandage. The sergeant extends a water bottle 
and the captain wets the bandage and lays his hand on the 
man's brow. The others stand about, looking on with a kind 
of sober, detached interest. The captain rises. The bearers 
raise the wounded man again. The sergeant speaks them into 

Crevasse 467 

They gain the crest of the ridge. The ridge slopes west- 
ward into a plateau slightly rolling. Southward, beneath its 
dun pall, the barrage still rages; westward and northward 
about the shining empty plain smoke rises lazily here and 
there above clumps of trees. But this is the smoke of burn- 
ing things, burning wood and not powder, and the two 
officers gaze from beneath their hands, the men halting again 
without order and lowering arms. 

"Gad, sir," the subaltern says suddenly in a high, thin 
voice; "it's houses burning! They're retreating! Beasts! 

" 'Tis possible," the captain says, gazing beneath his hand. 
"We can get around that barrage now. Should be a road 
just yonder." He strides on again. 

"For-rard," the sergeant says, in that tone not loud. The 
men slope arms once more with unquestioning docility. 

The ridge is covered with a tough, gorselike grass. Insects 
buzz in it, zip from beneath their feet and fall to slatting 
again beneath the shimmering noon. The wounded man is 
babbling again. At intervals they pause and give him water 
and wet the bandage again, then two others exchange with 
the bearers and they hurry the man on and close up again. 

The head of the line stops; the men jolt prodding into one 
another like a train of freight cars stopping. At the captain's 
feet lies a broad shallow depression in which grows a sparse* 
dead-looking grass like clumps of bayonets thrust up out 
of the earth. It is too big to have been made by a small shell, 
and too shallow to have been made by a big one. It bears no 
traces of having been made by anything at all, and they look 
quietly down into it. "Queer," the subaltern says. "What 
do you fancy could have made it?" 

The captain does not answer. He turns. They circle the 
depression, looking down into it quietly as they pass it. But 
they have no more than passed it when they come upon 

468 The Wasteland 

another one, perhaps not quite so large. "I didn't know they 
had anything that could make that/' the subaltern says. 
Again the captain does not answer. They circle this one also 
and keep on along the crest of the ridge. On the other hand 
the ridge sheers sharply downward stratum by stratum of 
pallid eroded chalk. 

A shallow ravine gashes its crumbling yawn abruptly 
across their path. The captain changes direction again, par- 
alleling the ravine, until shortly afterward the ravine turns 
at right angles and goes on in the direction of their march. 
The floor of the ravine is in shadow; the captain leads the 
way down the shelving wall, into the shade. They lower the 
wounded man carefully and go on. 

After a time the ravine opens. They find that they have 
debouched into another of those shallow depressions. This 
one is not so clearly defined, though, and the opposite wall 
of it is nicked by what is apparently another depression, 
like two overlapping disks. They cross the first depression, 
while more of the dead-looking grass bayonets saber their 
legs dryly, and pass through the gap into the next depression. 

This one is like a miniature valley between miniature 
cliffs. Overhead they can see only the drowsy and empty 
bowl of the sky, with a few faint smoke smudges to the 
northwest. The sound of the barrage is now remote and far 
away: a vibration in earth felt rather than heard. There are 
no recent shell craters or marks here at all. It is as though 
they had strayed suddenly into a region, a world where the 
war had not reached, where nothing had reached, where no 
life is, and silence itself is dead. They give the wounded man 
water and go on. 

The valley, the depression, strays vaguely before them. 
They can see that it is a series of overlapping, vaguely cir- 
cular basins formed by no apparent or deducible agency. 
Pallid grass bayonets saber at their legs, and after a time they 

Crevass? 469 

are again among old healed scars of trees to which there 
cling sparse leaves neither green nor dead, as if they too had 
been overtaken and caught by a hiatus in time, gossiping 
dryly among themselves though there is no wind. The floor 
of the valley is not level. It in itself descends into vague 
depressions, rises again as vaguely between its shelving walls. 
In the center of these smaller depressions whitish knobs of 
chalk thrust up through the thin topsoil. The ground has a 
resilient quality, like walking on cork; feet make no sound. 
"Jolly walking," the subaltern says. Though his voice is not 
raised, it fills the small valley with the abruptness of a thun- 
derclap, filling the silence, the words seeming to hang about 
them as though silence here had been so long undisturbed 
that it had forgot its purpose; as one they look quietly and 
soberly about, at the shelving walls, the stubborn ghosts of 
trees, the bland, hushed sky. "Topping hole-up for embusque 
birds and such," the subaltern says. 

"Ay," the captain says. His word in turn hangs sluggishly 
and fades. The men at the rear close up, the movement pass- 
*ng forward, the men looking quietly and soberly about. 

"But no birds here," the subaltern says. "No insects even." 

"Ay," the captain says. The word fades, the silence comes 
down again, sunny, profoundly still. The subaltern pauses 
and stirs something with his foot. The men halt also, and 
the subaltern and the captain, without touching it, examine 
the half-buried and moldering rifle. The wounded man is 
babbling again. 

"What is it, sir?" the subaltern says. "Looks like one of 
those things the Canadians had. A Ross. Right?" 

"French," the captain says; "1914." 

"Oh," the subaltern says. He turns the rifle aside with his 
toe. The bayonet is still attached to the barrel, but the stock 
has long since rotted away. They go on, across the uneven 
ground, among the chalky knobs thrusting up through the 

470 The Wasteland 

soil. Light, the wan and drowsy sunlight, is laked in the 
valley, stagnant, bodiless, without heat. The saberlike grass 
thrusts sparsely and rigidly upward. They look about again 
at the shaling walls, then the ones at the head of the party 
watch the subaltern pause and prod with his stick at one of 
the chalky knobs and turn presently upward its earth-stained 
eyesockets and its unbottomed grin. 

"Forward," the captain says sharply. The party moves; 
the men look quietly and curiously at the skull as they pass. 
They go on, among the other whitish knobs like marbles 
studded at random in the shallow soil. 

"All in the same position, do you notice, sir?" the sub- 
altern says, his voice chattily cheerful; "all upright. Queer 
way to bury chaps: sitting down. Shallow, too." 

"Ay," the captain says. The wounded man babbles 
steadily. The two bearers stop with him, but the others 
crowd on after the officers, passing the two bearers and the 
wounded man. "Dinna stop to gi's sup water," one of the 
bearers says. "A'll drink walkin." They take up the wounded 
man again and hurry him on while one of them tries to hold 
the neck of a water bottle to the wounded man's mouth, 
clattering it against his teeth and spilling the water down the 
front of his tunic. The captain looks back. 

"What's this?" he says sharply. The men crowd up. Their 
eyes are wide, sober; he looks about at the quiet, intent faces. 
"What's the matter back there, Sergeant?" 

"Wind-up," the subaltern says. He looks about at the 
eroded walls, the whitish knobs thrusting quietly out of the 
earth. "Feel it myself," he says. He laughs, his laughter a 
little thin, ceasing. "Let's get out of here, sir," he says. "Let's 
get into the sun again." 

"You are in the sun here," the captain says. "Ease off there, 
men. Stop crowding. We'll be out soon. We'll find the road 
and get past the barrage and make -contact again." He turns 
and goes on. The party gets into motion again. 

Crevasse 47 1 

Then they all stop as one, in the attitudes of walking, in 
an utter suspension, and stare at one another. Again the 
earth moves under their feet. A man screams, high, like a 
woman or a horse; as the firm earth shifts for a third time 
beneath them the officers whirl and see beyond the down- 
plunging man a gaping hole with dry dust still crumbling 
about the edges before the orifice crumbles again beneath 
a second man. Then a crack springs like a sword slash be- 
neath them all; the earth breaks under their feet and tilts 
like jagged squares of pale fudge, framing a black yawn out 
of which, like a silent explosion, bursts the unmistakable 
smell of rotted flesh. While they scramble and leap (in 
silence now; there has been no sound since the first man 
screamed) from one cake to another, the cakes tilt and slide 
until the whole floor of the valley rushes slowly under them 
and plunges them downward into darkness. A grave rum- 
bling rises into the sunlight on a blast of decay and of faint 
dust which hangs and drifts in the faint air about the black 

The captain feels himself plunging down a sheer and 
shifting wall of moving earth, of sounds of terror and of 
struggling in the ink dark. Someone else screams. The 
scream ceases; he hears the voice of the wounded man com- 
ing thin and reiterant out of the plunging bowels of decay: 
"A'm no dead! A'm no dead!" and ceasing abruptly, as if a 
hand had been laid on his mouth. 

Then the moving cliff down which the captain plunges 
slopes gradually off and shoots him, uninjured, onto a hard 
floor, where he lies for a time on his back while across his 
face the lightward- and airward-seeking blast of death and 
dissolution rushes. He has fetched up against something; it 
tumbles down upon him lightly, with a muffled clatter as if 
it had come to pieces. 

Then he begins to see the light, the jagged shape of the 
cavern mouth high overhead, and then the sergeant is bend- 

472 The Wasteland 

ing over him with a pocket torch. "McKie?" the captain 
says. For reply the sergeant turns the flash upon his own 
face. "Where's Mr. McKie?" the captain says. 

"A's gone, sir-r," the sergeant says in a husky whisper. 
The captain sits up. 

"How many are left?" 

"Fourteen, sir-r," the sergeant whispers. 

"Fourteen. Twelve missing. We'll have to dig fast." He 
gets to his feet. The faint light from above falls coldly upon 
the heaped avalanche, upon the thirteen helmets and the 
white bandage of the wounded man huddled about the foot 
of the cliff. "Where are we?" 

For answer the sergeant moves the torch. It streaks later- 
ally into the darkness, along a wall, a tunnel, into yawning 
blackness, the walls faceted with pale glints of chalk. About 
the tunnel, sitting or leaning upright against the walls, are 
skeletons in dark tunics and bagging Zouave trousers, their 
moldering arms beside them; the captain recognizes them as 
Senegalese troops of the May fighting of 1915, surprised 
and killed by gas probably in the attitudes in which they 
had taken refuge in the chalk caverns. He takes the torch 
from the sergeant. 

"We'll see if there's anyone else," he says. "Have out the 
trenching tools." He flashes the light upon the precipice. It 
rises into gloom, darkness, then into the faint rumor of day- 
light overhead. With the sergeant behind him he climbs the 
shifting heap, the earth sighing beneath him and shaling 
downward. The injured man begins to wail again, "A'm no 
dead! A'm no dead! " until his voice goes into a high sustained 
screaming. Someone lays a hand over his mouth. His voice 
is muffled, then it becomes laughter on a rising note, becomes 
screaming again, is choked again. 

The captain and the sergeant mount as high as they dare, 
prodding at the earth while the earth shifts beneath them in 

Crevasse 473 

long hushed sighs. At the foot of the precipice the men 
huddle, their faces lifted faint, white, and patient into the 
light. The captain sweeps the torch up and down the cliff. 
There is nothing, no arm, no hand, in sight. The air is clear- 
ing slowly. "We'll get on/' the captain says. 

"Ay, sir-r," the sergeant says. 

In both directions the cavern fades into darkness, plumb- 
less and profound, filled with the quiet skeletons sitting and 
leaning against the walls, their arms beside them. 

"The cave-in threw us forward," the captain says. 

"Ay, sir-r," the sergeant whispers. 

"Speak out," the captain says. "It's but a bit of a cave. If 
men got into it, we can get out." 

"Ay, sir-r," the sergeant whispers. 

"If it threw us forward, the entrance will be yonder." 

"Ay, sir-r," the sergeant whispers. 

The captain flashes the torch ahead. The men rise and 
huddle quietly behind him, the wounded man among them. 
He whimpers. The cavern goes on, unrolling its glinted walls 
out of the darkness; the sitting shapes grin quietly into the 
light as they pass. The air grows heavier; soon they are 
trotting, gasping, then the air grows lighter and the torch 
sweeps up another slope of earth, closing the tunnel. The 
men halt and huddle. The captain mounts the slope. He snaps 
off the light and crawls slowly along the crest of the slide, 
where it joins the ceiling of the cavern, sniffing. The light 
flashes on again. "Two men with trenching tools," he says. 

Two men mount to him. He shows them the fissure 
through which air seeps in small, steady breaths. They begin 
to dig, furiously, hurling the dirt back. Presently they are 
relieved by two others; presently the fissure becomes a tunnel 
and four men can work at once. The air becomes fresher. 
They burrow furiously, with whimpering cries like dogs. 
The wounded man, hearing them perhaps, catching the 

474 The Wasteland 

excitement perhaps, begins to laugh again, meaningless and 
high. Then the man at the head of the tunnel bursts through. 
Light rushes in around him like water; he burrows madly; 
in silhouette they see his wallowing buttocks lunge from 
sight and a burst of daylight surges in. 

The others leave the wounded man and surge up the slope, 
fighting and snarling at the opening. The sergeant springs 
after them and beats them away from the opening with a 
trenching spade, cursing in his hoarse whisper. 

"Let them go, Sergeant," the captain says. The sergeant 
desists. He stands aside and watches the men scramble into 
the tunnel. Then he descends, and he and the captain help 
the wounded man up the slope. At the mouth of the tunnel 
the wounded man rebels. 

"A'm no dead! A'm no dead!" he wails, struggling. By 
cajolery and force they thrust him, still wailing and strug- 
gling, into the tunnel, where he becomes docile again and 
scuttles through. 

"Out with you, Sergeant," the captain says. 

"After you, sir-r," the sergeant whispers. 

"Out wi ye, man!" the captain says. The sergeant enters 
the tunnel. The captain follows. He emerges onto the outer 
slope of the avalanche which had closed the cave, at the foot 
of which the fourteen men are kneeling in a group. On his 
hands and knees like a beast, the captain breathes, his breath 
making a hoarse sound. "Soon it will be summer," he thinks, 
dragging the air into his lungs faster than he can empty them 
to respire again. "Soon it will be summer, and the long 
days." At the foot of the slope the fourteen men kneel. The 
one in the center has a Bible in his hand, from which he is 
intoning monotonously. Above his voice the wounded man's 
gibberish rises, meaningless and unemphatic and sustained. 


THE AMERICAN the older one wore no pink Bedfords. 
His breeches were of plain whipcord, like the tunic. And the 
tunic had no long London-cut skirts, so that below the Sam 
Browne the tail of it stuck straight out like the tunic of a 
military policeman beneath his holster belt. And he wore 
simple puttees and the easy shoes of a man of middle age, 
instead of Savile Row boots, and the shoes and the puttees 
did not match in shade, and the ordnance belt did not match 
either of them, and the pilot's wings on his breast were just 
wings. But the ribbon beneath them was a good ribbon, and 
the insigne on his shoulders were the twin bars of a captain. 
He was not tall. His face was thin, a little aquiline; the eyes 
intelligent and a little tired. He was past twenty-five; looking 
at him, one thought, not Phi Beta Kappa exactly, but Skull 
and Bones perhaps, or possibly a Rhodes scholarship. 

One of the men who faced him probably could not see 
him at all. He was being held on his feet by an American 
military policeman. He was quite drunk, and in contrast 
with the heavy- jawed policeman who held him erect on his 
long, slim, boneless legs, he looked like a masquerading girl. 
He was possibly eighteen, tall, with a pink-and-white face 
and blue eyes, and a mouth like a girl's mouth. He wore a 
pea-coat, buttoned awry and stained with recent mud, and 
upon his blond head, at that unmistakable and rakish swagger 


476 The Wasteland 

which no other people can ever approach or imitate, the cap 
of a Royal Naval Officer. 

"What's this, corporal?" the American captain said. 
"What's the trouble? He's an Englishman. You'd better let 
their M. P.'s take care of him." 

"I know he is," the policeman said. He spoke heavily, 
breathing heavily, in the voice of a man under physical 
strain; for all his girlish delicacy of limb, the English boy 
was heavier or more helpless than he looked. "Stand up!" 
the policeman said. "They're officers!" 

The English boy made an effort then. He pulled himself 
together, focusing his eyes. He swayed, throwing his arms 
about the policeman's neck, and with the other hand he 
saluted, his hand flicking, fingers curled a little, to his right 
ear, already swaying again and catching himself again. 
"Cheer-o, sir," he said. "Name's not Beatty, I hope." 

"No," the captain said. 

"Ah," the English boy said. "Hoped not. My mistake. No 
offense, what?" 

"No offense," the captain said quietly. But he was looking 
at the policeman. The second American spoke. He was a 
lieutenant, also a pilot. But he was not twenty-five and he 
wore the pink breeches, the London boots, and his tunic 
might have been a British tunic save for the collar. 

"It's one of those navy eggs," he said. "They pick them 
out of the gutters here all night long. You don't come to 
town often enough." 

"Oh," the captain said. "I've heard about them. I remem- 
ber now." He also remarked now that, though the street was 
a busy one it was just outside a popular cafe and there 
were many passers, soldier, civilian, women, yet none of 
them so much as paused, as though it were a familiar sight. 
He was looking at the policeman. "Can't you take him to his 

Turnabout 477 

"I thought of that before the captain did," the policeman 
said. "He says he can't go aboard his ship after dark because 
he puts the ship away at sundown." 

"Puts it away?" 

"Stand up, sailor!" the policeman said savagely, jerking 
at his lax burden. "Maybe the captain can make sense out 
of it. Damned if I can. He says they keep the boat under the 
wharf. Run it under the wharf at night, and that they can't 
get it out again until the tide goes out tomorrow." 

"Under the wharf? A boat? What is this?" He was now 
speaking to the lieutenant. "Do they operate some kind of 
aquatic motorcycles?" 

"Something like that," the lieutenant said. "You've seen 
them the boats. Launches, camouflaged and all. Dashing 
up and down the harbor. You've seen them. They do that 
all day and sleep in the gutters here all night." 

"Oh," the captain said. "I thought those boats were ship 
commanders' launches. You mean to tell me they use officers 
just to " 

"I don't know," the lieutenant said. "Maybe they use them 
to fetch hot water from one ship to another. Or buns. Or 
maybe to go back and forth fast when they forget napkins 
or something." 

"Nonsense," the captain said. He looked at the English 
boy again. 

"That's what they do," the lieutenant said. "Town's lousy 
with them all night long. Gutters full, and their M. P.'s 
carting them away in batches, like nursemaids in a park. 
Maybe the French give them the launches to get them out 
of the gutters during the day." 

"Oh," the captain said, "I see." But it was clear that he 
didn't see, wasn't listening, didn't believe what he did hear. 
He looked at the English boy. "Well, you can't leave him 
here in that shape," he said. 

478 The Wasteland 

Again the English boy tried to pull himself together, 
"Quite all right, 'sure you," he said glassily, his voice pleas- 
ant, cheerful almost, quite courteous. "Used to it. Con- 
founded rough pave, though. Should force French do some- 
thing about it. Visiting lads jolly well deserve decent field 
to play on, what?" 

"And he was jolly well using all of it too," the policeman 
said savagely. "He must think he's a one-man team, maybe." 

At that moment a fifth man came up. He was a British 
military policeman. "Nah then," he said. "What's this? 
What's this?" Then he saw the Americans' shoulder bars. 
He saluted. At the sound of his voice the English boy turned, 
swaying, peering. 

"Oh, hullo, Albert," he said. 

"Nah then, Mr. Hope," the British policeman said. He 
said to the American policeman, over his shoulder: "What 
is it this time?" 

"Likely nothing," the American said. "The way you guys 
run a war. But I'm a stranger here. Here. Take him." 

"What is this, corporal?" the captain said. "What was he 

"He won't call it nothing," the American policeman said, 
jerking his head at the British policeman. "He'll just call it a 
thrush or a robin or something. I turn into this street about 
three blocks back a while ago, and I find it blocked with a 
line of trucks going up from the docks, and the drivers all 
hollering ahead what the hell the trouble is. So I come on> 
and I find it is about three blocks of them, blocking the 
cross streets too; and I come on to the head of it where the 
trouble is, and I find about a dozen of the drivers out in 
front, holding a caucus or something in the middle of the 
street, and I come up and I say, What's going on here?* 
and they leave me through and I find this egg here laying " 

Turnabout 479 

"Yer talking about one of His Majesty's officers, my man," 
the British policeman said. 

"Watch yourself, corporal," the captain said. "And you 
found this officer " 

"He had done gone to bed in the middle of the street, with 
an empty basket for a pillow. Laying there with his hands 
under his head and his knees crossed, arguing with them about 
whether he ought to get up and move or not. He said that the 
trucks could turn back and go around by another street, but 
that he couldn't use any other street, because this street was 

"His street?" 

The English boy had listened, interested, pleasant. "Billet, 
you see," he said. "Must have order, even in war emergency. 
Billet by lot. This street mine; no poaching, eh? Next street 
Jamie Wutherspoon's. But trucks can go by that street be- 
cause Jamie not using it yet. Not in bed yet. Insomnia. 
Knew so. Told them. Trucks go that way. See now?" 

"Was that it, corporal?" the captain said. 

"He told you. He wouldn't get up. He just laid there, 
arguing with them. He was telling one of them to go some- 
where and bring back a copy of their articles of war " 

"King's Regulations; yes," the captain said. 

" and see if the book said whether he had the right of 
way, or the trucks. And then I got him up, and then the 
captain come along. And that's all. And with the captain's 
permission I'll now hand him over to His Majesty's wet 

nur " 

"That'll do, corporal," the captain said. "You can go. I'll 
see to this." The policeman saluted and went on. The British 
policeman was now supporting the English boy. "Can't you 
take him?" the captain said. "Where are their quarters?" 

"I don't rightly know, sir, if they have quarters or not. 

480 The Wasteland 

We I usually see them about the pubs until daylight. They 
don't seem to use quarters." 

"You mean, they really aren't off of ships?" 

"Well, sir, they might be ships, in a manner of speaking. 
But a man would have to be a bit sleepier than him to sleep 
in one of them." 

"I see," the captain said. He looked at the policeman. 
"What kind of boats are they?" 

This time the policeman's voice was immediate, final and 
completely inflectionless. It was like a closed door. "I don't 
rightly know, sir." 

"Oh," the captain said. "Quite. Well, he's in no shape to 
stay about pubs until daylight this time." 

"Perhaps I can find him a bit of a pub with a back table, 
where he can sleep," the policeman said. But the captain was 
not listening. He was looking across the street, where the 
lights of another cafe fell across the pavement. The English 
boy yawned terrifically, like a child does, his mouth pink 
and frankly gaped as a child's. 

The captain turned to the policeman: 

"Would you mind stepping across there and asking for 
Captain Bogard's driver? I'll take care of Mr. Hope." 

The policeman departed. The captain now supported the 
English boy, his hand beneath the other's arm. Again the 
boy yawned like a weary child. "Steady," the captain said. 
"The car will be here in a minute." 

"Right," the English boy said through the yawn. 


ONCE IN THE CAR, he went to sleep immediately with the 
peaceful suddenness of babies, sitting between the two Amer- 
icans. But though the aerodrome was only thirty minutes 
away, he was awake when they arrived, apparently qu'te 

Turnabout 48 1 

fresh, and asking for whisky. When they entered the mess 
he appeared quite sober, only blinking a little in the lighted 
room, in his raked cap and his awry-buttoned pea-jacket and 
a soiled silk muffler, embroidered with a club insignia which 
Bogard recognized to have come from a famous preparatory 
school, twisted about his throat. 

"Ah," he said, his voice fresh, clear now, not blurred, 
quite cheerful, quite loud, so that the others in the room 
turned and looked at him. "Jolly. Whisky, what?" He went 
straight as a bird dog to the bar in the corner, the lieutenant 
following. Bogard had turned and gone on to the other end 
of the room, where five men sat about a card table. 

"What's he admiral of?" one said. 

"Of the whole Scotch navy, when I found him," Bogard 

Another looked up. "Oh, I thought I'd seen him in town." 
He looked at the guest. "Maybe it's because he was on his 
feet that I didn't recognize him when he came in. You 
usually see them lying down in the gutter." 

"Oh," the first said. He, too, looked around. "Is he one of 
those guys?" 

"Sure. You've seen them. Sitting on the curb, you know, 
with a couple of limey M. P.'s hauling at their arms." 

"Yes. I've seen them," the other said. They all looked at 
the English boy. He stood at the bar, talking, his voice loud, 
cheerful. "They all look like him too," the speaker said. 
"About seventeen or eighteen. They run those little boats 
that are always dashing in and out." 

"Is that what they do?" a third said. "You mean, there's 
a male marine auxiliary to the Waacs? Good Lord, I sure 
made a mistake when I enlisted. But this war never was 
advertised right." 

"I don't know," Bogard said. "I guess they do more than 
just ride around." 

482 The Wasteland 

But they were not listening to him. They were looking 
at the guest. "They run by clock," the first said. "You can 
see the condition of one of them after sunset and almost tell 
what time it is. But what I don't see is, how a man that's 
in that shape at one o'clock every morning can even see a 
battleship the next day." 

"Maybe when they have a message to send out to a ship," 
another said, "they just make duplicates and line the launches 
up and point them toward the ship and give each one a dupli- 
cate of the message and let them go. And the ones that miss 
the ship just cruise around the harbor until they hit a dock 

"It must be more than that," Bogard said. 

He was about to say something else, but at that moment 
the guest turned from the bar and approached, carrying a 
glass. He walked steadily enough, but his color was high 
and his eyes were bright, and he was talking, loud, cheerful, 
as he came up. 

"I say. Won't you chaps join " He ceased. He seemed to 
remark something; he was looking at their breasts. "Oh, I say. 
You fly. All of you. Oh, good gad! Find it jolly, eh?" 

"Yes," somebody said. "Jolly." 

"But dangerous, what?" 

"A little faster than tennis," another said. The guest 
looked at him, bright, affable, intent. 

Another said quickly, "Bogard says you command a ves- 

"Hardly a vessel. Thanks, though. And not command. 
Ronnie does that. Ranks me a bit. Age." 


"Yes. Nice. Good egg. Old, though. Stickler." 


"Frightful. You'd not believe it. Whenever we sight 
smoke and I have the glass, he sheers away. Keeps the ship 

Turnabout 483 

hull down all the while. No beaver then. Had me two down 
a fortnight yesterday." 

The Americans glanced at one another. "No beaver?" 

"We play it. With basket masts, you see. See a basket 
mast. Beaver! One up. The Ergenstrasse doesn't count any 
more, though." 

The men about the table looked at one another. Bogard 
spoke. "I see. When you or Ronnie see a ship with basket 
masts, you get a beaver on the other. I see. What is the 

"She's German. Interned. Tramp steamer. Foremast rigged 
so it looks something like a basket mast. Booms, cables, I 
dare say. I didn't think it looked very much like a basket 
mast, myself. But Ronnie said yes. Called it one day. Then 
one day they shifted her across the basin and I called her on 
Ronnie. So we decided to not count her any more. See 
now, eh?" 

"Oh," the one who had made the tennis remark said, "I 
see. You and Ronnie run about in the launch, playing beaver. 
H'm'm. That's nice. Did you ever pi " 

"Jerry," Bogard said. The guest had not moved. He looked 
down at the speaker, still smiling, his eyes quite wide. 

The speaker still looked at the guest. "Has yours and 
Ronnie's boat got a yellow stern?" 

"A yellow stern?" the English boy said. He had quit smil- 
ing, but his face was still pleasant. 

"I thought that maybe when the boats had two captains, 
they might paint the sterns yellow or something." 

"Oh," the guest said. "Burt and Reeves aren't officers." 

"Burt and Reeves," the other said, in a musing tone. "So 
they go, too. Do they play beaver too?" 

"Jerry," Bogard said. The other looked at him. Bogard 
jerked his head a little. "Come over here." The other rose. 
They went aside. "Lay off of him," Bogard said. "I mean it, 

484 The Wasteland 

now. He's just a kid. When you were that age, how much 
sense did you have? Just about enough to get to chapel on 

"My country hadn't been at war going on four years, 
though," Jerry said. "Here we are, spending our money and 
getting shot at by the clock, and it's not even our fight, and 
these limeys that would have been goose-stepping twelve 
months now if it hadn't been " 

"Shut it," Bogard said. "You sound like a Liberty Loan." 

" taking it like it was a fair or something. 'Jolly.' " His 
voice was now falsetto, lilting. " 'But dangerous, what?' " 

"Sh-h-h-h," Bogard said. 

"I'd like to catch him and his Ronnie out in the harbor, 
just once. Any harbor. London's. I wouldn't want anything 
but a Jenny, either. Jenny? Hell, I'd take a bicycle and a 
pair of water wings! I'll show him some war." 

"Well, you lay off him now. He'll be gone soon." 

"What are you going to do with him?" 

"I'm going to take him along this morning. Let him have 
Harper's place out front. He says he can handle a Lewis. 
Says they have one on the boat. Something he was telling 
me about how he once shot out a channel-marker light at 
seven hundred yards." 

"Well, that's your business. Maybe he can beat you." 

"Beat me?" 

"Playing beaver. And then you can take on Ronnie." 

"I'll show him some war, anyway," Bogard said. He looked 
at the guest. "His people have been in it three years now, 
and he seems to take it like a sophomore in town for the big 
game." He looked at Jerry again. "But you lay off him now." 

As they approached the table, the guest's voice was loud 
and cheerful: ". . . if he got the glasses first, he would go in 
close and look, but when I got them first, he'd sheer off 
where I couldn't see anything but the smoke. Frightful 

Turnabout 485 

stickler. Frightful. But Ergenstrasse not counting any more. 
And if you make a mistake and call her, you lose two beaver 
from your score. If Ronnie were only to forget and call her 
we'd be even." 


AT TWO O'CLOCK the English boy was still talking, his voice 
bright, innocent and cheerful. He was telling them how 
Switzerland had been spoiled by 1914, and instead of the 
vacation which his father had promised him for his sixteenth 
birthday, when that birthday came he and his tutor had 
had to do with Wales. But that he and the tutor had got 
pretty high and that he dared to say with all due respect 
to any present who might have had the advantage of Switzer- 
land, of course that one could see probably as far from 
Wales as from Switzerland. "Perspire as much and breathe 
as hard, anyway," he added. And about him the Americans 
sat, a little hard-bitten, a little sober, somewhat older, listen- 
ing to him with a kind of cold astonishment. They had been 
getting up for some time now and going out and returning 
in flying clothes, carrying helmets and goggles. An orderly 
entered with a tray of coffee cups, and the guest realized 
that for some time now he had been hearing engines in the 
darkness outside. 

At last Bogard rose. "Come along," he said. "We'll get 
your togs." When they emerged from the mess, the sound 
of the engines was quite loud an idling thunder. In align- 
ment along the invisible tarmac was a vague rank of short 
banks of flickering blue-green fire suspended apparently in 
mid-air. They crossed the aerodrome to Bogard's quarters, 
where the lieutenant, McGinnis, sat on a cot fastening his 
flying boots. Bogard reached down a Sidcott suit and threw 
it across the cot. "Put this on," he said. 

486 The Wasteland 

"Will I need all this?" the guest said. ''Shall we be gone 
that long?" 

"Probably," Bogard said. "Better use it. Cold upstairs." 

The guest picked up the suit. "I say," he said. "I say, 
Ronnie and I have a do ourselves, tomor today. Do you 
think Ronnie won't mind if I am a bit late? Might not wait 
for me." 

"We'll be back before teatime," McGinnis said. He seemed 
quite busy with his boot. "Promise you." The English boy 
looked at him. 

"What time should you be back?" Bogard said. 

"Oh, well," the English boy said, "I dare say it will be all 
right. They let Ronnie say when to go, anyway. He'll wait 
for me if I should be a bit late." 

"He'll wait," Bogard said. "Get your suit on." 

"Right," the other said. They helped him into the suit. 
"Never been up before," he said, chattily, pleasantly. "Dare 
say you can see farther than from mountains, eh?" 

"See more, anyway," McGinnis said. "You'll like it." 

"Oh, rather. If Ronnie only waits for me. Lark. But dan- 
gerous, isn't it?" 

"Go on," McGinnis said. "You're kidding me." 

"Shut your trap, Mac," Bogard said. "Come along. Want 
some more coffee?" He looked at the guest, but McGinnis 

"No. Got something better than coffee. Coffee makes such 
a confounded stain on the wings." 

"On the wings?" the English boy said. "Why coffee on 
the wings." 

"Stow it, I said, Mac," Bogard said. "Come along." 

They recrossed the aerodrome, approaching the mutter- 
ing banks of flame. When they drew near, the guest began 
to discern the shape, the outlines, of the Handley-Page. It 
looked like a Pullman coach run upslanted aground into the 

Turnabout 487 

skeleton of the first floor of an incomplete skyscraper. The 
guest looked at it quietly. 

"It's larger than a cruiser," he said in his bright, interested 
voice. "I say, you know. This doesn't fly in one lump. You 
can't pull my leg. Seen them before. It comes in two parts: 
Captain Bogard and me in one; Mac and 'nother chap in 
other. What?" 

"No," McGinnis said. Bogard had vanished. "It all goes 
up in one lump. Big lark, eh? Buzzard, what?" 

"Buzzard?" the guest murmured. "Oh, I say. A cruiser. 
Flying. I say, now." 

"And listen," McGinnis said. His hand came forth; some- 
thing cold fumbled against the hand of the English boy 
a bottle. "When you feel yourself getting sick, see? Take 
a pull at it." 

"Oh, shall I get sick?" 

"Sure. We all do. Part of flying. This will stop it. But if 
it doesn't. See?" 

"What? Quite. What?" 

"Not overside. Don't spew it overside." 

"Not overside?" 

"It'll blow back in Bogy's and my face. Can't see. Bingo. 
Finished. See?" 

"Oh, quite. What shall I do with it?" Their voices were 
quiet, brief, grave as conspirators. 

"Just duck your head and let her go." 

"Oh, quite." 

Bogard returned. "Show him how to get into the front 
pit, will you?" he said. McGinnis led the way through the 
trap. Forward, rising to the slant of the fuselage, the passage 
narrowed; a man would need to crawl. 

"Crawl in there and keep going," McGinnis said. 

"It looks like a dog kennel," the guest said. 

"Doesn't it, though?" McGinnis agreed cheerfully. a Cut 

4 88 The Wasteland 

along with you." Stooping, he could hear the other scuttling 
forward. "You'll find a Lewis gun up there, like as not," he 
said into the tunnel. 

The voice of the guest came back: "Found it." 

"The gunnery sergeant will be along in a minute and show 
you if it is loaded." 

"It's loaded," the guest said; almost on the heels of his 
words the gun fired, a brief staccato burst. There were 
shouts, the loudest from the ground beneath the nose of the 
aeroplane. "It's quite all right," the English boy's voice said. 
"I pointed it west before I let it off. Nothing back there but 
Marine office and your brigade headquarters. Ronnie and 
I always do this before we go anywhere. Sorry if I was too 
soon. Oh, by the way," he added, "my name's Claude. Don't 
think I mentioned it." 

On the ground, Bogard and two other officers stood. They 
had come up running. "Fired it west," one said. "How in 
hell does he know which way is west? " 

"He's a sailor," the other said. "You forgot that." 

"He seems to be a machine gunner too," Bogard said. 

"Let's hope he doesn't forget that," the first said. 


NEVERTHELESS, Bogard kept an eye on the silhouetted head 
rising from the round gunpit in the nose ten feet ahead of 
him. "He did work that gun, though," he said to McGinnis 
beside him. "He even put the drum on himself, didn't he?" 

"Yes," McGinnis said. "If he just doesn't forget and think 
that that gun is him and his tutor looking around from a 
Welsh alp." 

"Maybe I should not have brought him," Bogard said. 
McGinnis didn't answer. Bogard jockeyed the wheel a little. 
Ahead, in the gunner's pit, the guest's head moved this way 

Turnabout 489 

and that continuously, looking. "We'll get there and unload 
and haul air for home," Bogard said. "Maybe in the dark 
Confound it, it would be a shame for his country to be in 
this mess for four years and him not even to see a gun pointed 
in his direction." 

"He'll see one tonight if he don't keep his head in," 
McGinnis said. 

But the boy did not do that. Not even when they had 
reached the objective and McGinnis had crawled down to 
the bomb toggles. And even when the searchlights found 
them and Bogard signaled to the other machines and dived, 
the two engines snarling full speed into and through the 
bursting shells, he could see the boy's face in the searchlight's 
glare, leaned far overside, coming sharply out as a spotlighted 
face on a stage, with an expression upon it of child-like in- 
terest and delight. "But he's firing that Lewis," Bogard 
thought. "Straight too"; nosing the machine farther down, 
watching the pinpoint swing into the sights, his right hand 
lifted, waiting to drop into McGinnis' sight. He dropped 
his hand; above the noise of the engines he seemed to hear 
the click and whistle of the released bombs as the machine, 
freed of the weight, shot zooming in a long upward bounce 
that carried it for an instant out of the light. Then he was 
pretty busy for a time, coming into and through the shells 
again, shooting athwart another beam that caught and held 
long enough for him to see the English boy leaning far over 
the side, looking back and down past the right wing, the 
undercarriage. "Maybe he's read about it somewhere," Bo- 
gard thought, turning, looking back to pick up the rest of 
the flight. 

Then it was all over, the darkness cool and empty and 
peaceful and almost quiet, with only the steady sound of the 
engines. McGinnis climbed back into the office, and standing 
UD in his seat, he fired the colored pistol this time and stood 

490 The Wasteland 

for a moment longer, looking backward toward where the 
searchlights still probed and sabered. He sat down again. 

"O.K.," he said. "I counted all four of them. Let's haul 
air." Then he looked forward. "What's become of the 
King's Own? You didn't hang him onto a bomb release, did 
you?" Bogard looked. The forward pit was empty. It was 
in dim silhouette again now, against the stars, but there was 
nothing there now save the gun. "No," McGinnis said: 
"there he is. See? Leaning overside. Dammit, I told him not 
to spew it! There he comes back." The guest's head came 
into view again. But again it sank out of sight. 

"He's coming back," Bogard said. "Stop him. Tell him 
we're going to have every squadron in the Hun Channel 
group on top of us in thirty minutes." 

McGinnis swung himself down and stooped at the en- 
trance to the passage. "Get back!" he shouted. The other 
was almost out; they squatted so, face to face like two dogs, 
shouting at one another above the noise of the still-unthrot- 
tied engines on either side of the fabric walls. The English 
boy's voice was thin and high. 

"Bomb! "he shrieked. 

"Yes," McGinnis shouted, "they were bombs! We gave 
them hell! Get back, I tell you! Have every Hun in France 
on us in ten minutes! Get back to your gun!" 

Again the boy's voice came, high, faint above the noise: 
"Bomb! All right?" 

"Yes! Yes! All right. Back to your gun, damn you!" 

McGinnis climbed back into the office. "He went back. 
Want me to take her awhile?" 

"All right," Bogard said. He passed McGinnis the wheel. 
"Ease her back some. I'd just as soon it was daylight when 
they come down on us." 

"Right," McGinnis said. He moved the wheel suddenly. 
"What's the matter with that right wing?" he said. "Watch 

Turnabout 491 

it See? I'm flying on the right aileron and a little rudder. 

Feel it." 

Bogard took the wheel a moment. "I didn't notice that. 
Wire somewhere, I guess. I didn't think any of those shells 
were that close. Watch her, though." 

"Right," McGinnis said. "And so you are going with him 
on his boat tomorrow today." 

"Yes. I promised him. Confound it, you can't hurt a kid > 
you know." 

"Why don't you take Collier along, with his mandolin? 
Then you could sail around and sing." 

"I promised him," Bogard said. "Get that wing up a little." 

"Right," McGinnis said. 

Thirty minutes later it was beginning to be dawn; the sky 
was gray. Presently McGinnis said: "Well, here they come* 
Look at them! They look like mosquitoes in September. I 
hope he don't get worked up now and think he's playing 
beaver. If he does he'll just be one down to Ronnie, provided 
the devil has a beard. . . . Want the wheel?" 


AT EIGHT O'CLOCK the beach, the Channel, was beneath them* 
Throttled back, the machine drifted down as Bogard rud- 
dered it gently into the Channel wind. His face was strained^ 
a little tired. 

McGinnis looked tired, too, and he needed a shave. 

"What do you guess he is looking at now?" he said. For 
again the English boy was leaning over the right side of the 
cockpit, looking backward and downward past the right 

"I don't know," Bogard said. "Maybe bullet holes." He 
blasted the port engine. "Must have the riggers " 

"He could see some closer than that," McGinnis said. "I'D 

492 The Wasteland 

swear I saw tracer going into his back at one time. Or maybe 
it's the ocean he's looking at. But he must have seen that 
when he came over from England." Then Bogard leveled 
off; the nose rose sharply, the sand, the curling tide edge 
fled alongside. Yet still the English boy hung far overside, 
looking backward and downward at something beneath the 
right wing, his face rapt, with utter and childlike interest. 
Until the machine was completely stopped he contittued to 
do so. Then he ducked down, and in the abrupt silence of 
the engines they could hear him crawling in the passage. He 
emerged just as the two pilots climbed stiffly down from the 
office, his face bright, eager; his voice high, excited. 

"Oh, I say! Oh, good gad! What a chap. What a judge 
of distance! If Ronnie could only have seen! Oh, good gad! 
Or maybe they aren't like ours don't load themselves as 
soon as the air strikes them." 

The Americans looked at him. "What don't what?" 
McGinnis said. "The bomb. It was magnificent; I say, I 
shan't forget it. Oh, I say, you know! It was splendid!" 

After a while McGinnis said, "The bomb?" in a fainting 
voice. Then the two pilots glared at each other; they said 
in unison: "That right wing!" Then as one they clawed 
down through the trap and, with the guest at their heels, 
they ran around the machine and looked beneath the right 
wing. The bomb, suspended by its tail, hung straight down 
like a plumb bob beside the right wheel, its tip just touching 
the sand. And parallel with the wheel track was the long 
delicate line in the sand where its ultimate tip had dragged. 
Behind them the English boy's voice was high, clear, child- 

"Frightened, myself. Tried to tell you. But realized you 
knew your business better than I. Skill. Marvelous. Oh, I 
.say, I shan't forget it." 

Turnabout 493 


A MARINE with a bayoneted rifle passed Bogard onto the 
wharf and directed him to the boat. The wharf was empty, 
and he didn't even see the boat until he approached the edge 
of the wharf and looked directly down into it and upon 
the backs of two stooping men in greasy dungarees, who 
rose and glanced briefly at him and stooped again. 

It was about thirty feet long and about three feet wide. 
It was painted with gray-green camouflage. It was quarter- 
decked forward, with two blunt, raked exhaust stacks. "Good 
Lord," Bogard thought, "if all that deck is engine " Just 
aft the deck was the control seat; he saw a big wheel, an 
instrument panel. Rising to a height of about a foot above 
the free-board, and running from the stern forward to where 
the deck began, and continuing on across the after edge of 
the deck and thence back down the other gunwale to the 
stern, was a solid screen, also camouflaged, which inclosed 
the boat save for the width of the stern, which was open. 
Facing the steersman's seat like an eye was a hole in the 
screen about eight inches in diameter. And looking down 
into the long, narrow, still, vicious shape, he saw a machine 
gun swiveled at the stern, and he looked at the low screen 
including which the whole vessel did not sit much more 
than a yard above water level with its single empty for- 
ward-staring eye, and he thought quietly: "It's steel. It's 
made of steel." And his face was quite sober, quite thought- 
ful, and he drew his trench coat about him and buttoned it, 
as though he were getting cold. 

He heard steps behind him and turned. But it was only an 
orderly from the aerodrome, accompanied by the marine 
with the rifle. The orderly was carrying a largish bundle 
trapped in paper. 

494 The Wasteland 

"From Lieutenant McGinnis to the captain," the orderly 

Bogard took the bundle. The orderly and the marine 
retreated. He opened the bundle. It contained some objects 
and a scrawled note. The objects were a new yellow silk sofa 
cushion and a Japanese parasol, obviously borrowed, and 
a comb and a roll of toilet paper. The note said: 

Couldn't find a camera anywhere and Collier wouldn't 
let me have his mandolin. But maybe Ronnie can play on 
the comb. 


Bogard looked at the objects. But his face was still quite 
thoughtful, quite grave. He rewrapped the things and car- 
ried the bundle on up the wharf and dropped it quietly into 
the water. 

As he returned toward the invisible boat he saw two men 
approaching. He recognized the boy at once tall, slender, 
already talking, voluble, his head bent a little toward his 
shorter companion, who plodded along beside him, hands 
in pockets, smoking a pipe. The boy still wore the pea-coat 
beneath a flapping oilskin, but in place of the rakish and 
casual cap he now wore an infantryman's soiled Balaclava 
helmet, with, floating behind him as though upon the sound 
of his voice, a curtainlike piece of cloth almost as long as 
a burnous. 

"Hullo, there!" he cried, still a hundred yards away. 

But it was the second man that Bogard was watching, 
thinking to himself that he had never in his life seen a more 
curious figure. There was something stolid about the very 
shape of his hunched shoulders, his slightly down-looking 
face. He was a head shorter than the other. His face was 
ruddy, too, but its mold was of a profound gravity that was 
almost dour. It was the face of a man of twenty who has been 

Turnabout 495 

for a year trying, even while asleep, to look twenty-one. He 
wore a high-necked sweater and dungaree slacks; above this 
a leather jacket; and above this a soiled naval officer's warmer 
that reached almost to his heels and which had one shoulder 
strap missing and not one remaining button at all. On his 
head was a plaid fore-and-aft deer stalker's cap, tied on by 
a narrow scarf brought across and down, hiding his ears, and 
then wrapped once about his throat and knotted with a hang- 
man's noose beneath his left ear. It was unbelievably soiled, 
and with his hands elbow-deep in his pockets and his 
hunched shoulders and his bent head, he looked like some- 
one's grandmother hung, say, for a witch. Clamped upside 
down between his teeth was a short brier pipe. 

"Here he is!" the boy cried. "This is Ronnie. Captain 

"How are you?" Bogard said. He extended his hand. The 
other said no word, but his hand came forth, limp. It was 
quite cold, but it was hard, calloused. But he said no word; 
he just glanced briefly at Bogard and then away. But in that 
instant Bogard caught something in the look, something 
strange a flicker; a kind of covert and curious respect, 
something like a boy of fifteen looking at a circus trapezist. 

But he said no word. He ducked on; Bogard watched him 
drop from sight over the wharf edge as though he had 
jumped feet first into the sea. He remarked now that the 
engines in the invisible boat were running. 

"We might get aboard too," the boy said. He started 
toward the boat, then he stopped. He touched Bogard's arm. 
"Yonder!" he hissed. "See?" His voice was thin with excite- 

"What?" Bogard also whispered; automatically he looked 
backward and upward, after old habit. The other was grip- 
ping his arm and pointing across the harbor. 

"There! Over there. The Ergenstrasse. They have shifted 

496 The Wasteland 

her again." Across the harbor lay an ancient, rusting, sway- 
backed hulk. It was small and nondescript, and, remember- 
ing, BogarJ saw that the foremast was a strange mess of 
cables and booms, resembling allowing for a great deal of 
license or looseness of imagery a basket mast. Beside him 
the boy was almost chortling. "Do you think that Ronnie 
noticed?" he hissed. "Do you?" 

"I don't know," Bogard said. 

"Oh, good gad! If he should glance up and call her before 
he notices, we'll be even. Oh, good gad! But come along." 
He went on; he was still chortling. "Careful," he said. 
"Frightful ladder." 

He descended first, the two men in the boat rising and 
saluting. Ronnie had disappeared, save for his backside, which 
now filled a small hatch leading forward beneath the deck. 
Bogard descended gingerly. 

"Good Lord," he said. "Do you have to climb up and 
down this every day?" 

"Frightful, isn't it?" the other said, in his happy voice. 
"But you know yourself. Try to run a war with makeshifts, 
then wonder why it takes so long." The narrow hull slid and 
surged, even with Bogard's added weight. "Sits right on top, 
you see," the boy said. "Would float on a lawn, in a heavy 
dew. Goes right over them like a bit of paper." 

"It does?" Bogard said. 

"Oh, absolutely. That's why, you see." Bogard didn't see, 
but he was too busy letting himself gingerly down to a sitting 
posture. There were no thwarts; no seats save a long, thick, 
cylindrical ridge which ran along the bottom of the boat 
from the driver's seat to the stern. Ronnie had backed into 
sight. He now sat behind the wheel, bent over the instrument 
panel. But when he glanced back over his shoulder he did 
not speak. His face was merely interrogatory. Across his face 
there was now a long smudge of grease. The boy's face was 
empty, too, now. 

Turnabout 497 

"Right," he said. He looked forward, where one of the 
seamen had gone. "Ready forward?" he said. 

"Aye, sir," the seaman said. 

The other seaman was at the stern line. "Ready aft?" 

"Aye, sir." 

"Cast off." The boat sheered away, purring, a boiling of 
water under the stern. The boy looked down at Bogard. 
"Silly business. Do it shipshape, though. Can't tell when silly 
fourstriper " His face changed again, immediate, solicitous. 
"I say. Will you be warm? I never thought to fetch " 

"I'll be all right," Bogard said. But the other was already 
taking off his oilskin. "No, no," Bogard said. "I won't take 

"You'll tell me if you get cold?" 

"Yes. Sure." He was looking down at the cylinder on 
which he sat. It was a half cylinder that is, like the hot- 
water tank to some Gargantuan stove, sliced down the middle 
and bolted, open side down, to the floor plates. It was twenty 
feet long and more than two feet thick. Its top rose as high 
as the gunwales and between it and the hull on either side was 
just room enough for a man to place his feet to walk. 

"That's Muriel," the boy said. 


"Yes. The one before that was Agatha. After my aunt. 
The first one Ronnie and I had was Alice in Wonderland. 
Ronnie and I were the White Rabbit. Jolly, eh?" 

"Oh, you and Ronnie have had three, have you?" 

"Oh, yes," the boy said. He leaned down. "He didn't 
notice," he whispered. His face was again bright, gleeful. 
"When we come back," he said. "You watch." 

"Oh," Bogard said. "The Ergenstrasse." He looked astern, 
and then he thought: "Good Lord! We must be going 
traveling." He looked out now, broadside, and saw the har- 
bor line fleeing past, and he thought to himself that the boat 
was well-nigh moving at the speed at which the Handley- 

498 The Wasteland 

Page flew, left the ground. They were beginning to bound 
now, even in the sheltered water, from one wave crest to the 
next with a distinct shock. His hand still rested on the cylin- 
der on which he sat. He looked down at it again, following it 
from where it seemed to emerge beneath Ronnie's seat, to 
where it beveled into the stern. "It's the air in her, I suppose," 
he said. 

"The what?" the boy said. 

"The air. Stored up in her. That makes the boat ride 


"Oh, yes. I dare say. Very likely. I hadn't thought about 
it." He came forward, his burnous whipping in the wind, 
and sat down beside Bogard. Their heads were below the top 
of the screen. 

Astern the harbor fled, diminishing, sinking into the sea. 
The boat had begun to lift now, swooping forward and 
down, shocking almost stationary for a moment, then lift- 
ing and swooping again; a gout of spray came aboard over 
the bows like a flung shovelful of shot. "I wish you'd take 
this coat," the boy said. 

Bogard didn't answer. He looked around at the bright 
face. "We're outside, aren't we?" he said quietly. 

"Yes. . . . Do take it, won't you?" 

"Thanks, no. I'll be all right. We won't be long, anyway, 
I guess." 

"No. We'll turn soon. It won't be so bad then." 

"Yes. I'll be all right when we turn." Then they did turn. 
The motion became easier. That is, the boat didn't bang 
head-on, shuddering, into the swells. They came up beneath 
now, and the boat fled with increased speed, with a long, 
sickening, yawing motion, first to one side and then the 
other. But it fled on, and Bogard looked astern with that 
same soberness with which he had first looked down into 
the boat. "We're going east now," he said. 

Turnabout 499 

"With just a spot of north," the boy said. "Makes her ride 
a bit better, what?" 

"Yes," Bogard said. Astern there was nothing now save 
empty sea and the delicate needlelike cant of the machine 
gun against the boiling and slewing wake, and the two sea- 
men crouching quietly in the stern. "Yes. It's easier." Then 
he said: "How far do we go?" 

The boy leaned closer. He moved closer. His voice was 
happy, confidential, proud, though lowered a little: "It's 
Ronnie's show. He thought of it. Not that I wouldn't have, 
in time. Gratitude and all that. But he's the older, you see. 
Thinks fast. Courtesy, noblesse oblige all that. Thought of 
it soon as I told him this morning. I said, 'Oh, I say. I've 
been there. I've seen it'; and he said, 'Not flying'; and I said, 
'Strewth'; and he said 'How far? No lying now'; and I said, 
'Oh, far. Tremendous. Gone all night'; and he said, 'Flying 
all night. That must have been to Berlin'; and I said, 'I don't 
know. I dare say'; and he thought. I could see him thinking. 
Because he is the older, you see. More experience in courtesy, 
right thing. And he said, 'Berlin. No fun to that chap, dash- 
ing out and back with us.' And he thought and I waited, 
and I said, 'But we can't take him to Berlin. Too far. Don't 
know the way, either'; and he said fast, like a shot said, 
'But there's Kiel'; and I knew" 

"What?" Bogard said. Without moving, his whole body 
sprang. "Kiel? In this?" 

"Absolutely. Ronnie thought of it. Smart, even if he is a 
stickler. Said at once, 'Zeebrugge no show at all for that 
chap. Must do best we can for him. Berlin,' Ronnie said. 
'My Gad! Berlin.' " 

"Listen," Bogard said. He had turned now, facing the 
other, his face quite grave. "What is this boat for?" 


"What does it do?" Then, knowing beforehand the 

500 The Wasteland 

answer to his own question, he said, putting his hand on the 
cylinder: "What is this in here? A torpedo, isn't it?" 

"I thought you knew," the boy said. 

"No," Bogard said. "I didn't know." His voice seemed to 
reach him from a distance, dry, cricketlike: "How do you 
fire it?" 

"Fire it?" 

"How do you get it out of the boat? When that hatch 
was open a while ago I could see the engines. They were 
right in front of the end of this tube." 

"Oh," the boy said. "You pull a gadget there and the tor- 
pedo drops out astern. As soon as the screw touches the 
water it begins to turn, and then the torpedo is ready, loaded. 
Then all you have to do is turn the boat quickly and the 
torpedo goes on." 

"You mean " Bogard said. After a moment his voice 
obeyed him again. "You mean you aim the torpedo with 
the boat and release it and it starts moving, and you turn 
the boat out of the way and the torpedo passes through the 
same water that the boat just vacated?" 

"Knew you'd catch on," the boy said. "Told Ronnie so. 
Airman. Tamer than yours, though. But can't be helped. 
Best we can do, just on water. But knew you'd catch on." 

"Listen,' Bogard said. His voice sounded to him quite 
calm. The boat fled on, yawing over the swells. He sat quite 
motionless. It seemed to him that he could hear himself talk- 
ing to himself: "Go on. Ask him. Ask him what? Ask him 
how close to the ship do you have to be before you fire. . . . 
Listen," he said, in that calm voice. "Now, you tell Ronnie, 
you see. You just tell him just say " He could feel his 
voice ratting off on him again, so he stopped it. He sat quite 
motionless, waiting for it to come back; the boy leaning 
now, looking at his face. Again the boy's voice was solici- 

Turnabout 501 

"I say. You're not feeling well. These confounded shallow 

"It's not that," Bogard said. "I just Do your orders say 

"Oh, no. They let Ronnie say. Just so we bring the boat 
back. This is for you. Gratitude. Ronnie's idea. Tame, after 
flying. But if you'd rather, eh?" 

"Yes, some place closer. You see, I " 

"Quite. I see. No vacations in wartime. I'll tell Ronnie." 
He went forward. Bogard did not move. The boat fled in 
long, slewing swoops. Bogard looked quietly astern, at the 
scudding sea, the sky. 

"My God!" he thought. "Can you beat it? Can you beat 

The boy came back; Bogard turned to him a face the color 
of dirty paper. "All right now," the boy said. "Not Kiel. 
Nearer place, hunting probably just as good. Ronnie says 
he knows you will understand." He was tugging at his 
pocket. He brought out a bottle. "Here. Haven't forgot last 
night. Do the same for you. Good for the stomach, eh?" 

Bogard drank, gulping a big one. He extended the bot- 
tle, but the boy refused. "Never touch it on duty," he said. 
"Not like you chaps. Tame here." 

The boat fled on. The sun was already down the west. 
But Bogard had lost all count of time, of distance. Ahead 
he could see white seas through the round eye opposite 
Ronnie's face, and Ronnie's hand on the wheel and the 
granitelike jut of his profiled jaw and the dead upside-down 
pipe. The boat fled on. 

Then the boy leaned and touched his shoulder. He half 
rose. The boy was pointing. The sun was reddish; against it, 
outside them and about two miles away, a vessel a trawler, 
it looked like at anchor swung a tall mast. 

"Lightship!" the boy shouted. "Theirs." Ahead Bogard 

502 The Wasteland 

could see a low, flat mole the entrance to a harbor. "Chan- 
nel! " the boy shouted. He swept his arm in both directions. 
"Mines!" His voice swept back on the wind. "Place filthy 
with them. All sides. Beneath us too. Lark, eh?" 


AGAINST THE MOLE a fair surf was beating. Running before 
the seas now, the boat seemed to leap from one roller to the 
next; in the intervals while the screw was in the air the 
engine seemed to be trying to tear itself out by the roots. 
But it did not slow; when it passed the end of the mole the 
boat seemed to be standing almost erect on its rudder, like 
a sailfish. The mole was a mile away. From the end of it little 
faint lights began to flicker like fireflies. The boy leaned. 
"Down," he said. "Machine guns. Might stop a stray." 
"What do I do?" Bogard shouted. "What can I do?" 
"Stout fellow! Give them hell, what? Knew you'd like it!" 
Crouching, Bogard looked up at the boy, his face wild. 
"I can handle the machine gun!" 

"No need," the boy shouted back. "Give them first 
innings. Sporting. Visitors, eh?" He was looking forward. 
"There she is. See?" They were in the harbor now, the 
basin opening before them. Anchored in the channel was a 
big freighter. Painted midships of the hull was a huge Argen- 
tine flag. "Must get back to stations!" the boy shouted down 
to him. Then at that moment Ronnie spoke for the first time. 
The boat was hurtling along now in smoother water. Its 
speed did not slacken and Ronnie did not turn his head when 
he spoke. He just swung his jutting jaw and the clamped 
cold pipe a little, and said from the side of his mouth a single 
The boy, stooped over what he had called his gadget, 

Turnabout 503 

jerked up, his expression astonished and outraged. Bogard 
also looked forward and saw Ronnie's arm pointing to star- 
board. It was a light cruiser at anchor a mile away. She had 
basket masts, and as he looked a gun flashed from her after 
turret. "Oh, damn!" the boy cried. "Oh, you putt! Oh, con- 
found you, Ronnie! Now I'm three down!" But he had al- 
ready stooped again over his gadget, his face bright and 
empty and alert again; not sober; just calm, waiting. Again 
Bogard looked forward and felt the boat pivot on its rudder 
and head directly for the freighter at terrific speed, Ronnie 
now with one hand on the wheel and the other lifted and 
extended at the height of his head. 

But it seemed to Bogard that the hand would never drop. 
He crouched, not sitting, watching with a kind of quiet 
horror the painted flag increase like a moving picture of a 
locomotive taken from between the rails. Again the gun 
crashed from the cruiser behind them, and the freighter 
fired point-blank at them from its poop. Bogard heard 
neither shot. 

"Man, man!" he shouted. "For God's sake!" 
Ronnie's hand dropped. Again the boat spun on its rudder. 
Bogard saw the bow rise, pivoting; he expected the hull to 
slam broadside on into the ship. But it didn't. It shot off on 
a long tangent. He was waiting for it to make a wide sweep, 
heading seaward, putting the freighter astern, and he thought 
of the cruiser again. "Get a broadside, this time, once we 
clear the freighter," he thought. Then he remembered the 
freighter, the torpedo, and he looked back toward the 
freighter to watch the torpedo strike, and saw to his horror 
that the boat was now bearing down on the freighter again, 
in a skidding turn. Like a man in a dream, he watched him- 
self rush down upon the ship and shoot past under her 
counter, still skidding, close enough to see the faces on her 
decks. "They missed and they are going to run down the 

504 The Wasteland 

torpedo and catch it and shoot it again," he thought idioti- 

So the boy had to touch his shoulder before he knew he 
was behind him. The boy's voice was quite calm: "Under 
Ronnie's seat there. A bit of a crank handle. If you'll just 
hand it to me " 

He found the crank. He passed it back; he was thinking 
dreamily: "Mac would say they had a telephone on board." 
But he didn't look at once to see what the boy was doing 
with it, for in that still and peaceful horror he was watching 
Ronnie, the cold pipe rigid in his jaw, hurling the boat at 
top speed round and round the freighter, so near that he 
could see the rivets in the plates. Then he looked aft, his face 
wild, importunate, and he saw what the boy was doing with 
the crank. He had fitted it into what was obviously a small 
windlass low on one flank of the tube near the head. He 
glanced up and saw Bogard's face. "Didn't go that time!" 
he shouted cheerfully. 

"Go?" Bogard shouted. "It didn't The torpedo" 

The boy and one of the seamen were quite busy, stooping 
over the windlass and the tube. "No. Clumsy. Always hap- 
pening. Should think clever chaps like engineers Happens, 
though. Draw her in and try her again." 

"But the nose, the cap!" Bogard shouted. "It's still in the 
tube, isn't it? It's all right, isn't it?" 

"Absolutely. But it's working now. Loaded. Screw's 
started turning. Get it back and drop it clear. If we should 
stop or slow up it would 'overtake us. Drive back into the 
tube. Bingo! What?" 

Bogard was on his feet now, turned, braced to the terrific 
merry-go-round of the boat. High above them the freighter 
seemed to be spinning on her heel like a trick picture in the 
movies. "Let me have that winch!" he cried. 

"Steady!" the boy said. "Mustn't draw her back too fast. 

Turnabout 505 

Jam her into the head of the tube ourselves. Same bingo! 
Best let us. Every cobbler to his last, what?" 

"Oh, quite," Bogard said. "Oh, absolutely." It was like 
someone else was using his mouth. He leaned, braced, his 
hands on the cold tube, beside the others. He was hot inside, 
but his outside was cold. He could feel all his flesh jerking 
with cold as he watched the blunt, grained hand of the sea- 
man turning the windlass in short, easy, inch-long arcs, 
while at the head of the tube the boy bent, tapping the 
cylinder with a spanner, lightly, his head turned with listen- 
ing delicate and deliberate as a watchmaker. The boat 
rushed on in those furious, slewing turns. Bogard saw a long, 
drooping thread loop down from somebody's mouth, be- 
tween his hands, and he found that the thread came from 
his own mouth. 

He didn't hear the boy speak, nor notice when he stood 
up. He just felt the boat straighten out, flinging him to his 
knees beside the tube. The seaman had gone back to the 
stern and the boy stooped again over his gadget. Bogard 
knelt now, quite sick. He did not feel the boat when it 
swung again, nor hear the gun from the cruiser which had 
not dared to fire and the freighter which had not been able 
to fire, firing again. He did not feel anything at all when 
he saw the huge, painted flag directly ahead and increasing 
with locomotive speed, and Ronnie's lifted hand drop. But 
this time he knew that the torpedo was gone; in pivoting 
and spinning this time the whole boat seemed to leave the 
water; he saw the bow of the boat shoot skyward like the 
nose of a pursuit ship going into a wingover. Then his out- 
raged stomach denied him. He saw neither the geyser nor 
heard the detonation as he sprawled over the tube. He felt 
only a hand grasp him by the slack of his coat, and the voice 
of one of the seamen: "Steady all, sir. I've got you." 

506 The Wasteland 


A VOICE ROUSED HIM, a hand. He was half sitting in the 
narrow starboard runway, half lying across the tube. He had 
been there for quite a while; quite a while ago he had felt 
someone spread a garment over him. But he had not raised 
his head. "I'm all right," he had said. "You keep it." 

"Don't need it," the boy said. "Going home now." 

"I'm sorry I " Bogard said. 

"Quite. Confounded shallow boats. Turn any stomach 
until you get used to them. Ronnie and I both, at first. Each 
time. You wouldn't believe it. Believe human stomach hold 
so much. Here." It was the bottle. "Good drink. Take 
enormous one. Good for stomach." 

Bogard drank. Soon he did feel better, warmer. When the 
hand touched him later, he found that he had been asleep. 

It was the boy again. The pea-coat was too small for him; 
shrunken, perhaps. Below the cuffs his long, slender, girl's 
wrists were blue with cold. Then Bogard realized what the 
garment was that had been laid over him. But before Bogard 
could speak, the boy leaned down, whispering; his face was 
gleeful: "He didn't notice!" 


"Ergenstrasse! He didn't notice that they had shifted her. 
Gad, I'd be just one down, then." He watched Bogard's face 
with bright, eager eyes. "Beaver, you know. I say. Feeling 
better, eh?" 

"Yes," Bogard said, "I am." 

"He didn't notice at all. Oh, gad! Oh, Jove!" 

Bogard rose and sat on the tube. The entrance to the 
harbor was just ahead; the boat had slowed a little. It was 
just dusk. He said quietly: "Does this often happen?" The 
boy looked at him. Bogard touched the tube. "This. Failing 
to go out." 

Turnabout 507 

"Oh, yes. Why they put the windlass on them. That was 
later. Made first boat; whole thing blew up one day. So put 
on windlass." 

"But it happens sometimes, even now? I mean, sometimes 
they blow up, even with the windlass?" 

"Well, can't say, of course. Boats go out. Not come back. 
Possible. Not ever know, of course. Not heard of one cap- 
tured yet, though. Possible. Not to us, though. Not yet." 

"Yes," Bogard said. "Yes." They entered the harbor, the 
boat moving still fast, but throttled now and smooth, across 
the dusk-filled basin. Again the boy leaned down, his voice 

"Not a word, now!" he hissed. "Steady all!" He stood up; 
he raised his voice: "I say, Ronnie." Ronnie did not turn his 
head, but Bogard could tell that he was listening. "That 
Argentine ship was amusing, eh? In there. How do you sup- 
pose it got past us here? Might have stopped here as well. 
French would buy the wheat." He paused, diabolical 
Machiavelli with the face of a strayed angel. "I say. How 
long has it been since we had a strange ship in here? Been 
months, eh?" Again he leaned, hissing. "Watch, now!" But 
Bogard could not see Ronnie's head move at all. "He's look- 
ing, though!" the boy whispered, breathed. And Ronnie was 
looking, though his head had not moved at all. Then there 
came into view, in silhouette against the dusk-filled sky, the 
vague, basket-like shape of the interned vessel's foremast. 
At once Ronnie's arm rose, pointing; again he spoke without 
turning his head, out of the side of his mouth, past the cold, 
clamped pipe, a single word: 


The boy moved like a released spring, like a heeled dog 
freed. "Oh, damn you!" he cried. "Oh, you putt! It's the 
Ergenstrasse! Oh, confound you! I'm just one down now!" 
He had stepped in one stride completely over Bogard, and 

508 The Wasteland 

he now leaned down over Ronnie. "What?" The boat was 
slowing in toward the wharf, the engine idle. "Aren't I, 
Ronnie? Just one down now?" 

The boat drifted in; the seaman had again crawled for- 
ward onto the deck. Ronnie spoke for the third and last 
time. "Right," he said. 


"I WANT," Bogard said, "a case of Scotch. The best we've 
got. And fix it up good. It's to go to town. And I want a 
responsible man to deliver it." The responsible man came. 
"This is for a child," Bogard said, indicating the package. 
"You'll find him in the Street of the Twelve Hours, some- 
where near the Cafe Twelve Hours. He'll be in the gutter. 
You'll know him. A child about six feet long. Any English 
M. P. will show him to you. If he is asleep, don't wake him. 
Just sit there and wait until he wakes up. Then give him 
this. Tell him it is from Captain Bogard." 


ABOUT A MONTH LATER a copy of the English Gazette which 
had strayed onto an American aerodrome carried the f ollow- 
ing item in the casualty lists: 

MISSING: Torpedo Boat XOOI. Midshipmen R. Boyce 
Smith and L. C. W. Hope, R. N. R., Boatswain's Mate Burt 
and Able Seaman Reeves. Channel Fleet, Light Torpedo 
Division. Failed to return from coast patrol duty. 

Shortly after that the American Air Service headquarters 
also issued a bulletin: 

For extraordinary valor over and beyond the routine of 

Turnabout 509 

duty, Captain H. S. Bogard, with his crew, composed of 
Second Lieutenant Darrel McGinnis and Aviation Gunners 
Watts and Harper, on a daylight raid and without scout pro- 
tection, destroyed with bombs an ammunition depot several 
miles behind the enemy's lines. From here, beset by enemy 
aircraft in superior numbers, these men proceeded with what 
bombs remained to the enemy's corps headquarters at Blank 
and partially demolished this chateau, and then returned 
safely without loss of a man. 

And regarding which exploit, it might have added, had it 
failed and had Captain Bogard come out of it alive, he would 
have been immediately and thoroughly court-martialed. 

Carrying his remaining two bombs, he had dived the 
Handley-Page at the chateau where the generals sat at 
lunch, until McGinnis, at the toggles below him, began to 
shout at him, before he ever signaled. He didn't signal until 
he could discern separately the slate tiles of the roof. Then 
his hand dropped and he zoomed, and he held the aeroplane 
so, in its wild snarl, his lips parted, his breath hissing, think- 
ing: "God! God! If they were all there all the generals, 
the admirals, the presidents and the kings theirs, ours all 
of them. J> 

All the Dead Pilots 


IN THE PICTURES, the snapshots hurriedly made, a little faded, 
a little dog-eared with the thirteen years, they swagger a 
little. Lean, hard, in their brass-and-leather martial harness, 
posed standing beside or leaning upon the esoteric shapes of 
wire and wood and canvas in which they flew without para- 
chutes, they too have an esoteric look; a look not exactly 
human, like that of some dim and threatful apotheosis of the 
race seen for an instant in the glare of a thunderclap and then 
forever gone. 

Because they are dead, all the old pilots, dead on the elev- 
enth of November, 1918. When you see modern photo- 
graphs of them, the recent pictures made beside the recent 
shapes of steel and canvas with the new cowlings and engines 
and slotted wings, they look a little outlandish: the lean 
young men who once swaggered. They look lost, baffled. In 
this saxophone age of flying they look as out of place as, a 
little thick about the waist, in the sober business suits of thirty 
and thirty-five and perhaps more than that, they would look 
among the saxophones and miniature brass bowlers of a night 
club orchestra. Because they are dead too, who had learned to 
respect that whose respect in turn their hardness had com- 
manded before there were welded center sections and para- 
chutes and ships that would not spin. That's why they watch 


512 The Wasteland 

the saxophone girls and boys with slipstream-proof lipstick 
and aeronautical flasks piling up the saxophone crates in pri- 
vate driveways and on golf greens, with the quick sympathy 
and the bafflement too. "My gad," one of them ack emma, 
warrant officer pilot, captain and M.C. in turn said to me 
once; "if you can treat a crate that way, why do you want to 
fly at all?" 

But they are all dead now. They are thick men now, a little 
thick about the waist from sitting behind desks, and maybe 
not so good at it, with wives and children in suburban homes 
almost paid out, with gardens in which they putter in the 
long evenings after the 5: 15 is in, and perhaps not so good at 
that either: the hard, lean men who swaggered hard and 
drank hard because they had found that being dead was not 
as quiet as they had heard it would be. That's why this story 
is composite: a series of brief glares in which, instantaneous 
and without depth or perspective, there stood into sight the 
portent and the threat of what the race could bear and be- 
come, in an instant between dark and dark. 


IN 1918 I was at Wing Headquarters, trying to get used to a 
mechanical leg, where, among other things, I had the censor- 
ing of mail from all squadrons in the Wing. The job itself 
wasn't bad, since it gave me spare time to experiment with a 
synchronized camera on which I was working. But the open- 
ing and reading of the letters, the scrawled, brief pages of 
transparent and honorable lies to mothers and sweethearts, in 
the script and spelling of schoolboys. But a war is such a big 
thing, and it takes so long. I suppose they who run them (I 
dont mean the staffs, but whoever or whatever it is that con- 
trols events) do get bored now and then. And it's when you 
get bored that you turn petty, play horse. 

All the Dead Pilots 5 1 3 

So now and then I would go up to a Camel squadron be- 
hind Amiens and talk with the gunnery sergeant about the 
synchronization of the machine guns. This was Spoomer's 
squadron. His uncle was the corps commander, the K.G., and 
so Spoomer, with his Guards' Captaincy, had also got in turn 
a Mons Star, a D.S.O., and now a pursuit squadron of single 
seaters, though the third barnacle on his tunic was still the 
single wing of an observer. 

In 1914 he was in Sandhurst: a big, ruddy-colored chap 
with china eyes, and I like to think of his uncle sending for 
him when the news got out, the good news. Probably at the 
uncle's club (the uncle was a brigadier then, just recalled 
hurriedly from Indian service) and the two of them opposite 
one another across the mahogany, with the newsboys crying 
in the street, and the general saying, "By gad, it will be the 
making of the Army. Pass the wine, sir." 

I daresay the general was put out, not to say outraged, 
when he finally realized that neither the Hun nor the Home 
Office intended running this war like the Army wanted it 
run. Anyway, Spoomer had already gone out to Mons and 
come back with his Star (though Ffollansbye said that the 
general sent Spoomer out to get the Star, since it was going 
to be one decoration you had to be on hand to get) before the 
uncle got him transferred to his staff, where Spoomer could 
get his D.S.O. Then perhaps the uncle sent him out again to 
tap the stream where it came to surface. Or maybe Spoomer 
went on his own this time. I like to think so. I like to think 
that he did it through pro patria, even though I know that 
no man deserves praise for courage or opprobrium for cow- 
ardice, since there are situations in which any man will show 
either of them. But he went out, and came back a year later 
with his observer's wing and a dog almost as large as a calf. 

That was ^1917, when he and Sartoris first came together, 
collided. Sartoris was an American, from a plantation at 

514 The Wasteland 

Mississippi, where they grew grain and Negroes, or the Ne- 
groes grew the grain something. Sartoris had a working 
vocabulary of perhaps two hundred words, and I daresay to 
tell where and how and why he lived was beyond him, save 
that he lived in the plantation with his great-aunt and his 
grandfather. He came through Canada in 1916, and he was at 
Pool. Ffollansbye told me about it. It seems that Sartoris had 
a girl in London, one of those three-day wives and three-year 
widows. That's the bad thing about war. They the Sartor- 
ises and such didn't die until 1918, some of them. But the 
girls, the women, they died on the fourth of August, 1914. 
So Sartoris had a girl. Ffollansbye said they called her 
Kitchener, "because she had such a mob of soldiers." He said 
they didn't know if Sartoris knew this or not, but that any- 
way for a while Kitchener Kit appeared to have ditched 
them all for Sartoris. They would be seen anywhere and any 
time together, then Ffollansbye told me how he found Sar- 
toris alone and quite drunk one evening in a restaurant. Ffol- 
lansbye told how he had already heard that Kit and Spoomer 
had gone off somewhere together about two days ago. He 
said that Sartoris was sitting there, drinking himself blind, 
waiting for Spoomer to come in. He said he finally got Sar- 
toris into a cab and sent him to the aerodrome. It was about 
dawn then, and Sartoris got a captain's tunic from someone's 
kit, and a woman's garter from someone else's kit, perhaps his 
own, and pinned the garter on the tunic like a barnacle rib- 
bon. Then he went and waked a corporal who was an ex-pro- 
fessional boxer and with whom Sartoris would put on the 
gloves now and then, and made the corporal put on the tunic 
over his underclothes. "Namesh Spoomer," Sartoris told the 
corporal. "Cap'm Spoomer"; swaying and prodding at the 
garter with his finger. "Dishtinguish Sheries Thighs," Sartoris 
said. Then he and the corporal in the borrowed tunic, with 

All the Dead Pilots 5 1 5 

his woolen underwear showing beneath, stood there in the 
dawn, swinging at one another with their naked fists. 


YOU'D THINK that when a war had got you into it, it would 
let you be. That it wouldn't play horse with you. But maybe 
it wasn't that. Maybe it was because the three of them, 
Spoomer and Sartoris and the dog, were so humorless about 
it. Maybe a humorless person is an unflagging challenge to 
them above the thunder and the alarms. Anyway, one after- 
noon it was in the spring, just before Cambrai fell I went 
up to the Camel aerodrome to see the gunnery sergeant, and 
I saw Sartoris for the first time. They had given the squadron 
to Spoomer and the dog the year before, and the first thing 
they did was to send Sartoris out to it. 

The afternoon patrol was out, and the rest of the people 
were gone too, to Amiens I suppose, and the aerodrome was 
deserted. The sergeant and I were sitting on two empty petrol 
tins in the hangar door when I saw a man thrust his head out 
the door of the officers' mess and look both ways along the 
line, his air a little furtive and very alert. It was Sartoris, and 
he was looking for the dog. 

"The dog?" I said. Then the sergeant told me, this too 
composite, out of his own observation and the observation of 
the entire enlisted personnel exchanged and compared over 
the mess tables or over pipes at night: that terrible and om- 
niscient inquisition of those in an inferior station. 

When Spoomer left the aerodrome, he would lock the dog 
up somewhere. He would have to lock it up in a different 
place each time, because Sartoris would hunt until he found 
it, and let it out. It appeared to be a dog of intelligence, be- 
cause if Spoomer had only gone down to Wing or some- 
where on business, the dog would stay at home, spending the 

516 The Wasteland 

interval grubbing in the refuse bin behind the men's mess, to 
which it was addicted in preference to that of the officers. 
But if Spoomer had gone to Amiens, the dog would depart up 
the Amiens road immediately on being freed, to return later 
with Spoomer in the squadron car. 

"Why does Mr. Sartoris let it out?" I said. "Do you mean 
that Captain Spoomer objects to the dog eating kitchen 

But the sergeant was not listening. His head was craned 
around the door, and we watched Sartoris. He had emerged 
from the mess and he now approached the hangar at the end 
of the line, his air still alert, still purposeful. He entered the 
hangar. "That seems a rather childish business for a grown 
man," I said. 

The sergeant looked at me. Then he quit looking at me. 
"He wants to know if Captain Spoomer went to Amiens or 

After a while I said, "Oh. A young lady. Is that it?" 
He didn't look at me. "You might call her a young lady. I 
suppose they have young ladies in this country." 

I thought about that for a while. Sartoris emerged from 
the first hangar and entered the second one. "I wonder if 
there are any young ladies any more anywhere," I said. 
"Perhaps you are right, sir. War is hard on women." 
"What about this one?" I said. "Who is she?" 
He told me. They ran an estaminet, a "bit of a pub" he 
called it an old harridan of a woman, and the girl. A little 
place on a back street, where officers did not go. Perhaps that 
was why Sartoris and Spoomer created such a furore in that 
circle. I gathered from the sergeant that the contest between 
the squadron commander and one of his greenest cubs was 
the object of general interest and the subject of the warmest 
conversation and even betting among the enlisted element of 
the whole sector of French and British troops. "Being officers 
and all," he said. 

All the Dead Pilots 517 

"They frightened the soldiers off, did they?" I said. "Is that 
it?" The sergeant did not look at me. "Were there many 
soldiers to frighten off? " 

"I suppose you know these young women," the sergeant 
said. "This war and all." 

And that's who the girl was. What the girl was. The ser- 
geant said that the girl and the old woman were not even 
related. He told me how Sartoris bought her things clothes, 
and jewelry; the sort of jewelry you might buy in Amiens, 
probably. Or maybe in a canteen, because Sartoris was not 
much more than twenty. I saw some of the letters which he 
wrote to his great-aunt back home, letters that a third-form 
lad in Harrow could have written, perhaps bettered. It 
seemed that Spoomer did not make the girl any presents. 
"Maybe because he is a captain," the sergeant said. "Or 
maybe because of them ribbons he dont have to." 

"Maybe so," I said. 

And that was the girl, the girl who, in the centime jewelry 
which Sartoris gave her, dispensed beer and wine to British 
and French privates in an Amiens back street, and because of 
whom Spoomer used his rank to betray Sartoris with her by 
keeping Sartoris at the aerodrome on special duties, locking 
up the dog to hide from Sartoris what he had done. And Sar- 
toris taking what revenge he could by letting out the dog in 
order that it might grub in the refuse of plebeian food. 

He entered the hangar in which the sergeant and I were: 
a tall lad with pale eyes in a face that could be either merry 
or surly, and quite humorless. He looked at me. "Hello," he 

"Hello," I said. The sergeant made to get up. 

"Carry on," Sartoris said. "I dont want anything." He 
went on to the rear of the hangar. It was cluttered with petrol 
drums and empty packing cases and such. He was utterly 
without self-consciousness, utterly without shame of his 
childish business. 

518 The Wasteland 

The dog was in one of the packing cases. It emerged, huge, 
of a napped, tawny color; Ffollansbye had told me that, save 
for Spoomer's wing and his Mons Star and his D.S.O., he 
and the dog looked alike. It quitted the hangar without haste, 
giving me a brief, sidelong glance. We watched it go on and 
disappear around the corner of the men's mess. Then Sartoris 
turned and went back to the officers' mess and also disap- 

Shortly afterward, the afternoon patrol came in. While the 
machines were coming up to the line, the squadron car turned 
onto the aerodrome and stopped at the officers' mess and 
Spoomer got out. "Watch him," the sergeant said. "He'll try 
to do it like he wasn't watching himself, noticing himself." 

He came along the hangars, big, hulking, in green golf 
stockings. He did not see me until he was turning into the 
hangar. He paused; it was almost imperceptible, then he 
entered, giving me a brief, sidelong glance. "How do," he 
said in a high, fretful, level voice. The sergeant had risen. I 
had never seen Spoomer even glance toward the rear, toward 
the overturned packing case, yet he had stopped. "Sergeant," 
he said. 

"Sir," the sergeant said. 

"Sergeant," Spoomer said. "Have those timers come up 

"Yes, sir. They came up two weeks ago. They're all in 
use now, sir." 

"Quite so. Quite so." He turned; again he gave me a brief, 
sidelong glance, and went on down the hangar line, not fast. 
He disappeared. "Watch him, now," the sergeant said. "He 
wont go over there until he thinks we have quit watching 

We watched. Then he came into sight again, crossing 
toward the men's mess, walking briskly now. He disappeared 
beyond the corner. A moment later he emerged, dragging 

All the Dead Pilots 519 

the huge, inert beast by the scruff of its neck. "You mustn't 
eat that stuff," he said. "That's for soldiers." 


I DIDN'T KNOW at the time what happened next. Sartoris didn't 
tell me until later, afterward. Perhaps up to that time he had 
not anything more than instinct and circumstantial evidence 
to tell him that he was being betrayed: evidence such as being 
given by Spoomer some duty not in his province at all and 
which would keep him on the aerodrome for the afternoon, 
then finding and freeing the hidden dog and watching it van- 
ish up the Amiens road at its clumsy hand gallop. 

But something happened. All I could learn at the time was, 
that one afternoon Sartoris found the dog and watched it 
depart for Amiens. Then he violated his orders, borrowed a 
motor bike and went to Amiens too. Two hours later the dog 
returned and repaired to the kitchen door of the men's mess, 
and a short time after that, Sartoris himself returned on a 
lorry (they were already evacuating Amiens) laden with 
household effects and driven by a French soldier in a peasant's 
smock. The motor bike was on the lorry too, pretty well 
beyond repair. The soldier told how Sartoris had driven the 
bike full speed into a ditch, trying to run down the dog. 

But nobody knew just what had happened, at the time. 
But I had imagined the scene, before he told me. I imagined 
him there, in that bit of a room full of French soldiers, and 
the old woman (she could read pips, no doubt; ribbons, any- 
way) barring him from the door to the living quarters. I can 
imagine him, furious, baffled, inarticulate (he knew no 
French) standing head and shoulders above the French peo- 
ple whom he could not understand and that he believed were 
laughing at him. "That was it," he told me. "Laughing at me 
behind their faces, about a woman. Me knowing that he was 

520 The Wasteland 

up there, and them knowing I knew that if I busted in and 
dragged him out and bashed his head off, I'd not only be 
cashiered, I'd be clinked for life for having infringed the 
articles of alliance by invading foreign property without 
warrant or something." 

Then he returned to the aerodrome and met the dog on 
the road and tried to run it down. The dog came on home, 
and Spoomer returned, and he was just dragging it by the 
scruff of the neck from the refuse bin behind the men's mess, 
when the afternoon patrol came in. They had gone out six 
and come back five, and the leader jumped down from his 
machine before it had stopped rolling. He had a bloody rag 
about his right hand and he ran toward Spoomer stooped 
above the passive and stiff-legged dog. "By gad," he said, 
"they have got Cambrai!" 

Spoomer did not look up. "Who have?" 

"Jerry has, by gad!" 

"Well, by gad," Spoomer said. "Come along, now. I have 
told you about that muck." 

A man like that is invulnerable. When Sartoris and I talked 
for the first time, I started to tell him that. But then I learned 
that Sartoris was invincible too. We talked, that first time. "I 
tried to get him to let me teach him to fly a Camel," Sartoris 
said. "I will teach him for nothing. I will tear out the cock- 
pit and rig the duals myself, for nothing." 

"Why?" I said. "What for?" 

"Or anything. I will let him choose it. He can take an S.E. 
if he wants to, and I will take an Ak.W. or even a Fee and I 
will run him clean out of the sky in four minutes. I will run 
him so far into the ground he will have to stand on his head 
to swallow." 

We talked twice: that first time, and the last time. "Well, 
you did better than that," I said the last time we talked. 

He had hardly any teeth left then, and he couldn't talk 

All the Dead Pilots 521 

very well, who had never been able to talk much, who lived 
and died with maybe two hundred words. "Better than 
what? " he said. 

"You said before that you would run him clean out of the 
sky. You didn't do that; you did better: you have run him 
clean off the continent of Europe." 


I THINK I said that he was invulnerable too. November n, 
1918, couldn't kill him, couldn't leave him growing a little 
thicker each year behind an office desk, with what had once 
been hard and lean and immediate grown a little dim, a little 
baffled, and betrayed, because by that day he had been dead 
almost six months. 

He was killed in July, but we talked that second time, that 
other time before that. This last time was a week after the 
patrol had come in and told that Cambrai had fallen, a week 
after we heard the shells falling in Amiens. He told me about 
it himself, through his missing teeth. The whole squadron 
went out together. He left his flight as soon as they reached 
the broken front, and flew back to Amiens with a bottle of 
brandy in his overall leg. Amiens was being evacuated, the 
roads full of lorries and carts of household goods, and am- 
bulances from the Base hospital, and the city and its im- 
mediate territory was now interdict. 

He landed in a short meadow. He said there was an old 
woman working in a field beyond the canal (he said she was 
still there when he returned an hour later, stooping stub- 
bornly among the green rows, beneath the moist spring air 
shaken at slow and monstrous intervals by the sound of shells 
falling in the city) and a light ambulance stopped halfway in 
the roadside ditch. 

He went to the ambulance. The engine was still running. 

522 The Wasteland 

The driver was a young man in spectacles. He looked like a 
student, and he was dead drunk, half sprawled out of the cab. 
Sartoris had a drink from his own bottle and tried to rouse 
the driver, in vain. Then he had another drink (I imagine that 
he was pretty well along himself by then; he told me how 
only that morning, when Spoomer had gone off in the car 
and he had found the dog and watched it take the Amiens 
road, how he had tried to get the operations officer to let him 
off patrol and how the operations officer had told him that 
La Fayette awaited him on the Santerre plateau) and tumbled 
the driver back into the ambulance and drove on to Amiens 

He said the French corporal was drinking from a bottle 
in a doorway when he passed and stopped the ambulance 
before the estaminet. The door was locked. He finished his 
brandy bottle and he broke the estaminet door in by diving 
at it as they do in American football. Then he was inside. 
The place was empty, the benches and tables overturned and 
the shelves empty of bottles, and he said that at first he could 
not remember what it was he had come for, so he thought it 
must be a drink. He found a bottle of wine under the bar 
and broke the neck off against the edge of the bar, and he 
told how he stood there, looking at himself in the mirror be- 
hind the bar, trying to think what it was he had come to do. 
"I looked pretty wild," he said. 

Then the first shell fell. I can imagine it: he standing there 
in that quiet, peaceful, redolent, devastated room, with the 
bashed-in door and the musing and waiting city beyond it, 
and then that slow, unhurried, reverberant sound coming 
down upon the thick air of spring like a hand laid without 
haste on the damp silence; he told how dust or sand or plaster, 
something, sifted somewhere, whispering down in a faint hiss, 
and how a big, lean cat came up over the bar without a sound 

All the Dead Pilots 523 

and flowed down to the floor and vanished like dirty quick- 

Then he saw the closed door behind the bar and he remem- 
bered what he had come for. He went around the bar. He 
expected this door to be locked too, and he grasped the knob 
and heaved back with all his might. It wasn't locked. He said 
it came back into the shelves with a sound like a pistol, jerk- 
ing him off his feet. "My head hit the bar," he said. "Maybe 
I was a little groggy after that." 

Anyway, he was holding himself up in the door, looking 
down at the old woman. She was sitting on the bottom stair, 
her apron over her head, rocking back and forth. He said that 
the apron was quite clean, moving back and forth like a pis- 
ton, and he standing in the door, drooling a little at the mouth, 
"Madame," he said. The old woman rocked back and forth. 
He propped himself carefully and leaned and touched her 
shoulder. " 'Toinette," he said. "Ou est-elle, 'Toinette?" That 
was probably all the French he knew; that, with vin added to 
his 196 English words, composed his vocabulary. 

Again the old woman did not answer. She rocked back and 
forth like a wound-up toy. He stepped carefully over her 
and mounted the stair. There was a second door at the head 
of the stair. He stopped before it, listening. His throat filled 
with a hot, salty liquid. He spat it, drooling; his throat filled 
again. This door was unlocked also. He entered the room 
quietly. It contained a table, on which lay a khaki cap with 
the bronze crest of the Flying Corps, and as he stood drooling 
in the door, the dog heaved up from the corner furthest from 
the window, and while he and the dog looked at one another 
above the cap, the sound of the second shell came dull and 
monstrous into the room, stirring the limp curtains before the 

As he circled the table the dog moved too, keeping the 
table between them, watching him. He was trying to move 

524 The Wasteland 

quietly, yet he struck the table in passing (perhaps while 
watching the dog) and he told how, when he reached the op- 
posite door and 'stood beside it, holding his breath, drooling, 
he could hear the silence in the next room. Then a voice 


He kicked the locked door, then he dived at it, again like 
the American football, and through it, door and all. The girl 
screamed. But he said he never saw her, never saw anyone. 
He just heard her scream as he went into the room on all- 
fours. It was a bedroom; one corner was filled by a huge 
wardrobe with double doors. The wardrobe was closed, and 
the room appeared to be empty. He didn't go to the ward- 
robe. He said he just stood there on his hands and knees, 
drooling, like a cow, listening to the dying reverberation of 
the third shell, watching the curtains on the window blow 
once into the room as though to a breath. 

He got up. "I was still groggy," he said. "And I guess that 
brandy and the wine had kind of got joggled up inside me." 
I daresay they had. There was a chair. Upon it lay a pair of 
slacks, neatly folded, a tunic with an observer's wing and 
two ribbons, an ordnance belt. While he stood looking down 
at the chair, the fourth shell came. 

He gathered up the garments. The chair toppled over and 
he kicked it aside and lurched along the wall to the broken 
door and entered the first room, taking the cap from the 
table as he passed. The dog was gone. 

He entered the passage. The old woman still sat on the 
bottom step, her apron over her head, rocking back and forth. 
He stood at the top of the stair, holding himself up, waiting 
to spit. Then beneath him a voice said: "Que faites-vous en 

He looked down upon the raised moustached face of the 
French corporal whom he had passed in the street drinking 

All the Dead Pilots 525 

from the bottle. For a time they looked at one another. Then 
the corporal said, "Descendez," making a peremptory gesture 
with his arm. Clasping the garments in one hand, Sartoris 
put the other hand on the stair rail and vaulted over it. 

The corporal jumped aside. Sartoris plunged past him and 
into the wall, banging his head hollowly again. As he got to 
his feet and turned, the corporal kicked at him, striking for 
his pelvis. The corporal kicked him again. Sartoris knocked 
the corporal down, where he lay on his back in his clumsy 
overcoat, tugging at his pocket and snapping his boot at Sar- 
toris' groin. Then the corporal freed his hand and shot point- 
blank at Sartoris with a short-barreled pistol. 

Sartoris sprang upon him before he could shoot again, 
trampling the pistol hand. He said he could feel the man's 
bones through his boot, and that the corporal began to scream 
like a woman behind his brigand's moustaches. That was what 
made it funny, Sartoris said: that noise coming out of a pair 
of moustaches like a Gilbert and Sullivan pirate. So he said 
he stopped it by holding the corporal up with one hand and 
hitting him on the chin with the other until the noise stopped. 
He said that the old woman had not ceased to rock back and 
forth under her starched apron. "Like she might have dressed 
up to get ready to be sacked and ravaged," he said. 

He gathered up the garments. In the bar he had another 
pull at the bottle, looking at himself in the mirror. Then he 
saw that he was bleeding at the mouth. He said he didn't 
know if he had bitten his tongue when he jumped over the 
stair rail or if he had cut his mouth with the broken bottle 
neck. He emptied the bottle and flung it to the floor. 

He said he didn't know then what he intended to do. He 
said he didn't realize it even when he had dragged the uncon- 
scious driver out of the ambulance and was dressing him in 
Captain Spoomer's slacks and cap and ribboned tunic, and 
tumbled him back into the ambulance. 

526 The Wasteland 

He remembered seeing a dusty inkstand behind the bar. 
He sought and found in his overalls a bit of paper, a bill ren- 
dered him eight months ago by a London tailor, and, leaning 
on the bar, drooling and spitting, he printed on the back of 
the bill Captain Spoomer's name and squadron number and 
aerodrome, and put the paper into the tunic pocket beneath 
the ribbons and the wing, and drove back to where he had 
left his aeroplane. 

There was an Anzac battalion resting in the ditch beside 
the road. He left the ambulance and the sleeping passenger 
with them, and four of them helped him to start his engine, 
and held the wings for his tight take-off. 

Then he was back at the front. He said he did not remem- 
ber getting there at all; he said the last thing he remembered 
was the old woman in the field beneath him, then suddenly he 
was in a barrage, low enough to feel the concussed air be- 
tween the ground and his wings, and to distinguish the faces 
of troops. He said he didn't know what troops they were, 
theirs or ours, but that he strafed them anyway. "Because I 
never heard of a man on the ground getting hurt by an aero- 
plane," he said. "Yes, I did; I'll take that back. There was a 
farmer back in Canada plowing in the middle of a thousand- 
acre field, and a cadet crashed on top of him." 

Then he returned home. They told at the aerodrome that 
he flew between two hangars in a slow roll, so that they could 
see the valve stems in both wheels, and that he ran his wheels 
across the aerodrome and took off again. The gunnery ser- 
geant told me that he climbed vertically until he stalled, and 
that he held the Camel mushing on its back. "He was watch- 
ing the dog," the sergeant said. "It had been home about an 
hour and it was behind the men's mess, grubbing in the refuse 
bin." He said that Sartoris dived at the dog and then looped, 
making two turns of an upward spin, coming off on one wing 
and still upside down. Then the sergeant said that he prob- 
ably did not set back the air valve, because at a hundred feet 

All the Dead Pilots 527 

the engine conked, and upside down Sartoris cut the tops out 
of the only two poplar trees they had left. 

The sergeant said they ran then, toward the gout of dust 
and the mess of wire and wood. Before they reached it, he 
said the dog came trotting out from behind the men's mess. 
He said the dog got there first and that they saw Sartoris on 
his hands and knees, vomiting, while jhe dog watched him. 
Then the dog approached and sniffed tentatively at the vomit 
and Sartoris got up and balanced himself and kicked it, 
weakly but with savage and earnest purpose. 


THE AMBULANCE DRIVER, in Spoomer's uniform, was sent 
back to the aerodrome by the Anzac major. They put him to 
bed, where he was still sleeping when the brigadier and the 
Wing Commander came up that afternoon. They were still 
there when an ox cart turned onto the aerodrome and 
stopped, with, sitting on a wire cage containing chickens, 
Spoomer in a woman's skirt and a knitted shawl. The next 
day Spoomer returned to England. We learned that he was 
to be a temporary colonel at ground school. 

"The dog will like that, anyway," I said. 

"The dog?" Sartoris said. 

"The food will be better there," I said. 

"Oh," Sartoris said. They had reduced him to second 
lieutenant, for dereliction of duty by entering a forbidden 
zone with government property and leaving it unguarded, 
and he had been transferred to another squadron, to the one 
which even the B.E. people called the Laundry. 

This was the day before he left. He had no front teeth at 
all now, and he apologized for the way he talked, who had 
never really talked with an intact mouth. "The joke is," he 
said, "it's another Camel squadron. I have to laugh." 

"Laugh?" I said. 

528 The Wasteland 

"Oh, I can ride them. I can sit there with the gun out and 
keep the wings level now and then. But I can't fly Camels. 
You have to land a Camel by setting the air valve and flying 
it into the ground. Then you count ten, and if you have not 
crashed, you level off. And if you can get up and walk away, 
you have made a good landing. And if they can use the crate 
again, you are an ace.^But that's not the joke." 

"What's not?" 

"The Camels. The joke is, this is a night-flying squadron. I 
suppose they are all in town and they dont get back until 
after dark to fly them. They're sending me to a night-flying 
squadron. That's why I have to laugh." 

"I would laugh," I said. "Isn't there something you can do 
about it?" 

"Sure. Just keep that air valve set right and not crash. Not 
wash out and have those wing flares explode. I've got that 
beat. I'll just stay up all night, pop the flares and sit down 
after sunrise. That's why I have to laugh, see. I cant fly 
Camels in the daytime, even. And they dont know it." 

"Well, anyway, you did better than you promised," I said. 
"You have run him off the continent of Europe." 

"Yes," he said. "I sure have to laugh. He's got to go back 
to England, where all the men are gone. All those women, 
and not a man between fourteen and eighty to help him. I 
have to laugh." 


WHEN JULY CAME, I was still in the Wing office, still trying 
to get used to my mechanical leg by sitting at a table equipped 
with a paper cutter, a pot of glue and one of red ink, and 
laden with the meager, thin, here soiled and here clean en- 
velopes that came down in periodical batches envelopes ad- 
dressed to cities and hamlets and sometimes less than hamlets, 

All the Dead Pilots 529 

about England when one day I came upon two addressed to 
the same person in America: a letter and a parcel. I took the 
letter first. It had neither location nor date: 

Dear Aunt Jenny 

Yes I got the socks Elnora knitted. They fit all right be- 
cause I gave them to my batman he said they fit all right. Yes 
I like it here better than 'where I was these are good guys here 
except these damn Camels. I am all right about going to 
church we dont always have church. Sometimes they have it 
for the ak emmas because 1 reckon a ak emma needs it but 
usually 1 am pretty busy Sunday but I go enough I reckon. 
Tell Elnora much oblige for the socks they fit all right but 
maybe you better not tell her I gave them away. Tell Isom 
and the other niggers hello and Grandfather tell him I got the 
money all right but war is expensive as hell. 


But then, the Malbroucks dont make the wars, anyway. I 
suppose it takes too many words to make a war. Maybe that's 

The package was addressed like the letter, to Mrs Virginia 
Sartoris, Jefferson, Mississippi, U.S.A., and I thought, What 
in the world would it ever occur to him to send to her? I 
could not imagine him choosing a gift for a woman in a 
foreign country; choosing one of those trifles which some 
men can choose with a kind of infallible tact. His would be, 
if he thought to send anything at all, a section of crank shaft 
or maybe a handful of wrist pins salvaged from a Hun crash. 
So I opened the package. Then I sat there, looking at the 

It contained an addressed envelope, a few dog-eared papers, 
a wrist watch whose strap was stiff with some dark dried 
liquid, a pair of goggles without any glass in one lens, a silver 
belt buckle with a monogram. That was all. 

530 The Wasteland 

So I didn't need to read the letter. I didn't have to look at 
the contents of the package, but I wanted to. I didn't want 
to read the letter, but I had to. 

Squadron, R.A.P\, France. 

$th July, 1918. 
Dear Madam, 

I have to tell you that your son was killed on yesterday 
morning. He was shot down while in pursuit of duty over the 
enemy lines. Not due to carelessness or lack of skill. He was 
a good man. The E.A. outnumbered your son and had more 
height and speed which is our misfortune but no fault of the 
Government which would give us better machines if they 
had them which is no satisfaction to you. Another of ours, 
Mr R. Kyerling woo feet below could not get up there since 
your son spent much time in the hangar and had a new en- 
gine in his machine last week. -Your son took fire in ten sec- 
onds Mr Kyerling said and jumped from your son's machine 
since he was side slipping safely until the E.A. shot away his 
stabiliser and controls and he began to spin. I am very sad to 
send you these sad tidings though it may be a comfort to you 
that he was buried by a minister. His other effects sent you 

I am, madam, and etc. 

C. Kaye Major 

He was buried in the cemetary just north of Saint Vaast 
since we hope it will not be shelled again since we hope it 
will be over soon by our padre since there were just two 
Camels and seven E.A. and so it was on our side by that time. 

C. K. Mjr. 

The other papers were letters, from his great-aunt, not 
many and not long. I dont know why he had kept them. But 
he had. Maybe he just forgot them, like he had the bill from 

All the Dead Pilots 531 

the London tailor he had found in his overalls in Amiens that 
day in the spring. 

. . . let those foreign women alone. I lived through a 'war 
mysetf and I know how women act in war, even with Yan- 
kees. And a good-for-nothing hellion like you . . . 

And this: 

. . . we think it's about time you came home. Your grand- 
father is getting old, and it don't look like they will ever get 
done fighting over there. So you come on home. The Yan- 
kees are in it now. Let them fight if they want to. It's their 
war. It's not ours. 

And that's all. That's it. The courage, the recklessness, call 
it what you will, is the flash, the instant of sublimation; then 
flick! the old darkness again. That's why. It's too strong for 
steady diet. And if it were a steady diet, it would not be a 
flash, a glare. And so, being momentary, it can be preserved 
and prolonged only on paper: a picture, a few written words 
that any match, a minute and harmless flame that any child 
can engender, can obliterate in an instant. A one-inch sliver 
of sulphur-tipped wood is longer than memory or grief; a 
flame no larger than a sixpence is fiercer than courage or 




Dr. Martino 

Fox Hunt 

Pennsylvania Station 

Artist at Home 

The Brooch 

My Grandmother Millard 

Golden Land 

There Was a Queen 

Mountain Victory 


SUTPEN STOOD ABOVE the pallet bed on which the mother and 
child lay. Between the shrunken planking of the wall the 
early sunlight fell in long pencil strokes, breaking upon his 
straddled legs and upon the riding whip in his hand, and 
lay across the still shape of the mother, who lay looking up 
at him from still, inscrutable, sullen eyes, the child at her 
side wrapped in a piece of dingy though clean cloth. Be- 
hind them an old Negro woman squatted beside the rough 
hearth where a meager fire smoldered. 

"Well, Milly," Sutpen said, "too bad you're not a mare. 
Then I could give you a decent stall in the stable." 

Still the girl on the pallet did not move. She merely con- 
tinued to look up at him without expression, with a young, 
sullen, inscrutable face still pale from recent travail. Sutpen 
moved, bringing into the splintered pencils of sunlight the 
face of a man of sixty. Pie said quietly to the squatting 
Negress, "Griselda foaled this morning." 

"Horse or mare?" the Negress said. 

"A horse. A damned fine colt. . . . What's this?" He indi- 
cated the pallet with the hand which held the whip. 

"That un's a mare, I reckon." 

"Hah," Sutpen said. "A damned fine colt. Going to be 
the spit and image of old Rob Roy when I rode him North 
in '6 1. Do you remember?" 


536 The Middle Ground 

"Yes, Marster." 

"Hah." He glanced back towards the pallet. None could 
have said if the girl still watched him or not. Again his whip 
hand indicated the pallet. "Do whatever they need with 
whatever we've got to do it with." He went out, passing 
out the crazy doorway and stepping down into the rank 
weeds (there yet leaned rusting against the corner of the 
porch the scythe which Wash had borrowed from him three 
months ago to cut them with) where his horse waited, where 
Wash stood holding the reins. 

When Colonel Sutpen rode away to fight the Yankees, 
Wash did not go. "I'm looking after the Kernel's place and 
niggers," he would tell all who asked him and some who 
had not asked a gaunt, malaria-ridden man with pale, ques- 
tioning eyes, who looked about thirty-five, though it was 
known that he had not only a daughter but an eight-year- 
old granddaughter as well. This was a lie, as most of them 
the few remaining men between eighteen and fifty to 
whom he told it, knew, though there were some who be- 
lieved that he himself really believed it, though even these 
believed that he had better sense than to put it to the test 
with Mrs. Sutpen or the Sutpen slaves. Knew better or was 
just too lazy and shiftless to try it, they said, knowing that his 
sole connection with the Sutpen plantation lay in the fact 
that for years now Colonel Sutpen had allowed him to squat 
in a crazy shack on a slough in the river bottom on the Sut- 
pen place, which Sutpen had built for a fishing lodge in his 
bachelor days and which had since fallen in dilapidation 
from disuse, so that now it looked like an aged or sick wild 
beast crawled terrifically there to drink in the act of dying. 

The Sutpen slaves themselves heard of his statement. They 
laughed. It was not the first time they had laughed at him, 
calling him white trash behind his back. They began to ask 

Wash .' 537 

him themselves, in groups, meeting him in the faint road 
which led up from the slough and the old fish camp, "Why 
ain't you at de war, white man?" 

Pausing, he would look about the ring of black faces and 
white eyes and teeth behind which derision lurked. "Because 
I got a daughter and family to keep," he said. "Git out of 
my road, niggers." 

"Niggers?" they repeated; "niggers?" laughing now. 
"Who him, calling us niggers?" 

"Yes," he said. "I ain't got no niggers to look after my 
folks if I was gone." 

"Nor nothing else but dat shack down yon dat Gunnel 
wouldn't let none of us live in." 

Now he cursed them; sometimes he rushed at them, 
snatching up a stick from the ground while they scattered 
before him, yet seeming to surround him still with that black 
laughing, derisive, evasive, inescapable, leaving him panting 
and impotent and raging. Once it happened in the very back 
yard of the big house itself. This was after bitter news had 
come down from the Tennessee mountains and from Vicks- 
burg, and Sherman had passed through the plantation, and 
most of the Negroes had followed him. Almost everything 
else had gone with the Federal troops, and Mrs. Sutpen had 
sent word to Wash that he could have the scuppernongs 
ripening in the arbor in the back yard. This time it was a 
house servant, one of the few Negroes who remained; this 
time the Negress had to retreat up the kitchen steps, where 
she turned. "Stop right dar, white man. Stop right whar you 
is. You ain't never crossed dese steps whilst Gunnel here, 
and you ain't ghy' do hit now." 

This was true. But there was this of a kind of pride: he 
had never tried to enter the big house, even though he be- 
lieved that if he had, Sutpen would have received him, per- 
mitted him. "But I ain't going to give no black nigger the 

538 The Middle Ground 

chance to tell me I can't go nowhere," he said to himself. 
"I ain't even going to give Kernel the chance to have to 
cuss a nigger on my account." This, though he and Sutpen 
had spent more than one afternoon together on those rare 
Sundays when there would be no company in the house. 
Perhaps his mind knew that it was because Sutpen had noth- 
ing else to do, being a man who could not bear his own 
company. Yet the fact remained that the two of them would 
spend whole afternoons in the scuppernong arbor, Sutpen 
in the hammock and Wash squatting against a post, a pail of 
cistern water between them, taking drink for drink from 
the same demijohn. Meanwhile on weekdays he would see 
the fine figure of the man they were the same age almost 
to a day, though neither of them (perhaps because Wash 
had a grandchild while Sutpen's son was a youth in school) 
ever thought of himself as being so on the fine figure of 
the black stallion, galloping about the plantation. For that 
moment his heart would be quiet and proud. It would seem 
to him that that world in which Negroes, whom the Bible 
told him had been created and cursed by God to be brute 
and vassal to all men of white skin, were better found and 
housed and even clothed than he and his; that world in which 
he sensed always about him mocking echoes of black laugh- 
ter was but a dream and an illusion, and that the actual 
world was this one across which his own lonely apotheosis 
seemed to gallop on the black thoroughbred, thinking how 
the Book said also that all men were created in the image of 
God and hence all men made the same image in God's eyes 
at least; so that he could say, as though speaking of himself, 
"A fine proud man. If God Himself was to come down and 
ride the natural earth, that's what He would aim to look 

Sutpen returned in 1865, on th e black stallion. He seemed 
to have aged ten years. His son had been killed in action the 

Wash 539 

same winter in which his wife had died. He returned with 
his citation for gallantry from the hand of General Lee to a 
ruined plantation, where for a year now his daughter had 
subsisted partially on the meager bounty of the man to 
whom fifteen years ago he had granted permission to live 
in that tumbledown fishing camp whose very existence he 
had at the time forgotten. Wash was there to meet him, 
unchanged: still gaunt, still ageless, with his pale, question- 
ing gaze, his air diffident, a little servile, a little familiar. 
"Well, Kernel," Wash said, "they kilt us but they ain't 
whupped us yit, air they?" 

That was the tenor of their conversation for the next five 
years. It was inferior whisky which they drank now to- 
gether from a stoneware jug, and it was not in the scupper- 
nong arbor. It was in the rear of the little store which Sut- 
pen managed to set up on the highroad: a frame shelved 
room where, with Wash for clerk and porter, he dispensed 
kerosene and staple foodstuffs and stale gaudy candy and 
cheap beads and ribbons to Negroes or poor whites of 
Wash's own kind, who came afoot or on gaunt mules to 
haggle tediously for dimes and quarters with a man who at 
one time could gallop (the black stallion was still alive; the 
stable in which his jealous get lived was in better repair than 
the house where the master himself lived) for ten miles 
across his own fertile land and who had led troops gallantly 
in battle; until Sutpen in fury would empty the store, close 
and lock the doors from the inside. Then he and Wash 
would repair to the rear and the jug. But the talk would not 
be quiet now, as when Sutpen lay in the hammock, deliver- 
ing an arrogant monologue while Wash squatted guffawing 
against his post. They both sat now, though Sutpen had the 
single chair while Wash used whatever box or keg was 
handy, and even this for just a little while, because soon 
Sutpen would reach that stage of impotent and furious un- 

540 The Middle Ground 

defeat in which he would rise, swaying and plunging, and 
declare again that he would take his pistol and the black 
stallion and ride single-handed into Washington and kill 
Lincoln, dead now, and Sherman, now a private citizen. 
"Kill them!" he would shout. "Shoot them down like the 
dogs they are " 

"Sho, Kernel; sho, Kernel/' Wash would say, catching 
Sutpen as he fell. Then he would commandeer the first 
passing wagon or, lacking that, he would walk the mile to 
the nearest neighbor and borrow one and return and carry 
Sutpen home. He entered the house now. He had been 
doing so for a long time, taking Sutpen home in whatever 
borrowed wagon might be, talking him into locomotion 
with cajoling murmurs as though he were a horse, a stallion 
himself. The daughter would meet them and hold open the 
door without a word. He would carry his burden through 
the once white formal entrance, surmounted by a fanlight 
imported piece by piece from Europe and with a board now 
nailed over a missing pane, across a velvet carpet from which 
all nap was now gone, and up a formal stairs, now but a 
fading ghost of bare boards between two strips of fading 
paint, and into the bedroom. It would be dusk by now, and 
he would let his burden sprawl onto the bed and undress it 
and then he would sit quietly in a chair beside. After a time 
the daughter would come to the door. "We're all right 
now," he would tell her. "Don't you worry none, Miss 

Then it would become dark, and after a while he would 
lie down on the floor beside the bed, though not to sleep, 
because after a time sometimes before midnight the man 
on the bed would stir and groan and then speak. "Wash?" 

"Hyer I am, Kernel. You go back to sleep. We ain't 
whupped yit, air we? Me and you kin do hit." 

Even then he had already seen the ribbon about his grand^ 

Wash 541 

daughter's waist. She was now fifteen, already mature, after 
the early way of her kind. He knew where the ribbon came 
from; he had been seeing it. and its kind daily for three years, 
even if she had lied about where she got it, which she did 
not, at once bold, sullen, and fearful. "Sho now," he said. 
"Ef Kernel wants to give hit to you, I hope you minded to 
thank him." 

His heart was quiet, even when he saw the dress, watching 
her secret, defiant, frightened face when she told him that 
Miss Judith, the daughter, had helped her to make it. But 
he was quite grave when he approached Sutpen after they 
closed the store that afternoon, following the other to the 

"Get the jug," Sutpen directed. 

"Wait," Wash said. "Not yit for a minute." 

Neither did Sutpen deny the dress. "What about it?" he 

But Wash met his arrogant stare; he spoke quietly. "I've 
knowed you for going on twenty years. I ain't never yit 
denied to do what you told me to do. And I'm a man nigh 
sixty. And she ain't nothing but a fifteen-year-old gal." 

"Meaning that I'd harm a girl? I, a man as old as you are?" 

"If you was ara other man, I'd say you was as old as me. 
And old or no old, I wouldn't let her keep that dress nor 
nothing else that come from your hand. But you are differ- 


"How different?" But Wash merely looked at him with 
his pale, questioning, sober eyes. "So that's why you are 
afraid of me?" 

Now Wash's gaze no longer questioned. It was tranquil, 
serene. "I ain't afraid. Because you air brave. It ain't that 
you were a brave man at one minute or day of your life and 
got a paper to show hit from General Lee. But you air 
brave, the same as you air alive and breathing. That's where 

542 The Middle Ground 

hit's different. Hit don't need no ticket from nobody to tell 
me that. And I know that whatever you handle or tech, 
whether hit's a regiment of men or a ignorant gal or just a 
hound dog, that you will make hit right." 

Now it was Sutpen who looked away, turning suddenly, 
brusquely. "Get the jug," he said sharply. 

"Sho, Kernel," Wash said. 

So on that Sunday dawn two years later, having watched 
the Negro midwife, which he had walked three miles to 
fetch, enter the crazy door beyond which his granddaughter 
lay wailing, his heart was still quiet though concerned. He 
knew what they had been saying the Negroes in cabins 
about the land, the white men who loafed all day long about 
the store, watching quietly the three of them: Sutpen, him- 
self, his granddaughter with her air of brazen and shrinking 
defiance as her condition became daily more and more ob- 
vious, like three actors that came and went upon a stage. 
"I know what they say to one another," he thought. "I can 
almost hyear them: Wash Jones has fixed old Sutpen at last. 
Hit taken him twenty years, but he has done hit at last" 

It would be dawn after a while, though not yet. From the 
house, where the lamp shone dim beyond the warped door- 
frame, his granddaughter's voice came steadily as though 
run by a clock, while thinking went slowly and terrifically, 
fumbling, involved somehow with a sound of galloping 
hooves, until there broke suddenly free in mid-gallop the 
fine proud figure of the man on the fine proud stallion, 
galloping; and then that at which thinking fumbled, broke 
free too and quite clear, not in justification nor even expla- 
nation, but as the apotheosis, lonely, explicable, beyond all 
fouling by human touch: "He is bigger than all them 
Yankees that kilt his son and his wife and taken his niggers 
and ruined his land, bigger than this hyer durn country that 

Wash 543 

he fit for and that has denied him into keeping a little coun- 
try store; bigger than the denial which hit helt to his lips 
like the bitter cup in the Book. And how could I have lived 
this nigh to him for twenty years without being teched and 
changed by him? Maybe I ain't as big as him and maybe I 
ain't done none of the galloping. But at least I done been 
drug along. Me and him kin do hit, if so be he will show me 
what he aims for me to do." 

Then it was dawn. Suddenly he could see the house, and 
the old Negress in the door looking at him. Then he realized 
that his granddaughter's voice had ceased. "It's a girl," the 
Negress said. "You can go tell him if you want to." She re- 
entered the house. 

"A girl," he repeated; "a girl"; in astonishment, hearing 
the galloping hooves, seeing the proud galloping figure 
emerge again. He seemed to watch it pass, galloping through 
avatars which marked the accumulation of years, time, to 
the climax where it galloped beneath a brandished saber and 
a shot-torn flag rushing down a sky in color like thunderous 
sulphur, thinking for the first time in his life that perhaps 
Sutpen was an old man like himself. "Gittin a gal," he 
thought in that astonishment; then he thought with the 
pleased surprise of a child: "Yes, sir. Be dawg if I ain't lived 
to be a great-grandpaw after all." 

He entered the house. He moved clumsily, on tiptoe, as 
if he no longer lived there, as if the infant which had just 
drawn breath and cried in light had dispossessed him, be it 
of his own blood too though it might. But even above the 
pallet he could see little save the blur of his granddaughter's 
exhausted face. Then the Negress squatting at the hearth 
spoke, "You better gawn tell him if you going to. Hit's day- 
light now." 

But this was not necessary. He had no more than turned 
the corner of the porch where the scythe leaned which he 

544 The Middle Ground 

had borrowed three months ago to clear away the weeds 
through which he walked, when Sutpen himself rode up on 
the old stallion. He did not wonder how Sutpen had got the 
word. He took it for granted that this was what had brought 
the other out at this hour on Sunday morning, and he stood 
while the other dismounted, and he took the reins from Sut- 
pen's hand, an expression on his gaunt face almost imbecile 
with a kind of weary triumph, saying, "Hit's a gal, Kernel. 
I be dawg if you ain't as old as I am " until Sutpen passed 
him and entered the house. He stood there with the reins 
in his hand and heard Sutpen cross the floor to the pallet. 
He heard what Sutpen said, and something seemed to stop 
dead in him before going on. 

The sun was now up, the swift sun of Mississippi latitudes, 
and it seemed to him that he stood beneath a strange sky, 
in a strange scene, familiar only as things are familiar in 
dreams, like the dreams of falling to one who has never 
climbed. "I kain't have heard what I thought I heard," he 
thought quietly. "I know I kain't." Yet the voice, the familiar 
voice which had said the words was still speaking, talking 
now to the old Negress about a colt foaled that morning. 
"That's why he was up so early," he thought. "That was hit. 
Hit ain't me and mine. Hit ain't even hisn that got him outen 

Sutpen emerged. He descended into the weeds, moving 
with that heavy deliberation which would have been haste 
when he was younger. He had not yet looked full at Wash. 
He said, "Dicey will stay and tend to her. You better " 
Then he seemed to see Wash facing him and paused. 
"What?" he said. 

"You said--" To his own ears Wash's voice sounded flat 
and ducklike, like a deaf man's. "You said if she was a mare, 
you could give her a good stall in the stable." 

"Well?" Sutpen said. His eyes widened and narrowed.. 

Wash 545 

almost like a man's fists flexing and shutting, as Wash began 
to advance towards him, stooping a little. Very astonish- 
ment kept Sutpen still for the moment, watching that man 
whom in twenty years he had no more known to make any 
motion save at command than he had the horse which he 
rode. Again his eyes narrowed and widened; without mov- 
ing he seemed to rear suddenly upright. "Stand back," he 
said suddenly and sharply. "Don't you touch me." 

"I'm going to tech you, Kernel," Wash said in that flat, 
quiet, almost soft voice, advancing. 

Sutpen raised the hand which held the riding whip; the 
old Negress peered around the crazy door with her black 
gargoyle face of a worn gnome. "Stand back, Wash," Sut- 
pen said. Then he struck. The old Negress leaped down into 
the weeds with the agility of a goat and fled. Sutpen slashed 
Wash again across the face with the whip, striking him to 
his knees. When Wash rose and advanced once more he 
held in his hands the scythe which he had borrowed from 
Sutpen three months ago and which Surpen would never 
need again. 

When he reentered the house his granddaughter stirred 
on the pallet bed and called his name fretfully. "What was 
that?" she said. 

"What was what, honey?" 

"That ere racket out there." 

" 'Twarn't nothing," he said gently. He knelt and touched 
her hot forehead clumsily. "Do you want ara thing?" 

"I want a sup of water," she said querulously. "I been 
laying here wanting a sup of water a long time, but don't 
nobody care enough to pay me no mind." 

"Sho now," he said soothingly. He rose stiffly and fetched 
the dipper of water and raised her head to drink and laid her 
back and watched her turn to the child with an absolutely 
stonelike face. But a moment later he saw that she was cry- 

546 The Middle Ground 

ing quietly. "Now, now," he said, "I wouldn't do that. Old 
Dicey says hit's a right fine gal. Hit's all right now. Hit's all 
over now. Hit ain't no need to cry now." 

But she continued to cry quietly, almost sullenly, and he 
rose again and stood uncomfortably above the pallet for a 
time, thinking as he had thought when his own wife lay so 
and then his daughter in turn: "Women. Hit's a mystry to 
me. They seem to want em, and yit when they git em they 
cry about hit. Hit's a mystry to me. To ara man." Then he 
moved away and drew a chair up to the window and sat 

Through all that long, bright, sunny forenoon he sat at 
the window, waiting. Now and then he rose and tiptoed to 
the pallet. But his granddaughter slept now, her face sullen 
and calm and weary, the child in the crook of her arm. Then 
he returned to the chair and sat again, waiting, wondering 
why it took them so long, until he remembered that it was 
Sunday. He was sitting there at mid-afternoon when a half- 
grown white boy came around the corner of the house upon 
the body and gave a choked cry and looked up and glared 
for a mesmerized instant at Wash in the window before he 
turned and fled. Then Wash rose and tiptoed again to the 

The granddaughter was awake now, wakened perhaps 
by the boy's cry without hearing it. "Milly," he said, "air 
you hungry?" She didn't answer, turning her face away. 
He built up the fire on the hearth and cooked the food which 
he had brought home the day before: fatback it was, and 
cold corn pone; he poured water into the stale coffee pot 
and heated it. But she would not eat when he carried the 
plate to her, so he ate himself, quietly, alone, and left the 
dishes as they were and returned to the window. 

Now he seemed to sense, feel, the men who would be 
gathering with horses and guns and dogs the curious, and 

Wash 547 

the vengeful: men of Sutpen's own kind, who had made 
the company about Sutpen's table in the time when Wash 
himself had yet to approach nearer to the house than the 
scuppernong arbor men who had also shown the lesser 
ones how to fight in battle, who maybe also had signed 
papers from the generals saying that they were among the 
first of the brave; who had also galloped in the old days 
arrogant and proud on the fine horses across the fine planta- 
tions symbols also of admiration and hope; instruments too 
of despair and grief. 

That was whom they would expect him to run from. It 
seemed to him that he had no more to run from than he had 
to run to. If he ran, he would merely be fleeing one set of 
bragging and evil shadows for another just like them, since 
they were all of a kind throughout all the earth which he 
knew, and he was old, too old to flee far even if he were to 
flee. He could never escape them, no matter how much or 
how far he ran: a man going on sixty could not run that 
far. Not far enough to escape beyond the boundaries of 
earth where such men lived, set the order and the rule of 
living. It seemed to him that he now saw for the first time, 
after five years, how it was that Yankees or any other living 
armies had managed to whip them: the gallant, the proud, 
the brave; the acknowledged and chosen best among them 
all to carry courage and honor and pride. Maybe if he had 
gone to the war with them he would have discovered them 
sooner. But if he had discovered them sooner, what would 
he have done with his life since? How could he have borne 
to remember for five years what his life had been before? 

Now it was getting toward sunset. The child had been 
crying; when he went to the pallet he saw his granddaughter 
nursing it, her face still bemused, sullen, inscrutable. "Air 
you hungry yit?" he said. 

"I don't want nothing." 

548 The Middle Ground 

"You ought to eat." 

This time she did not answer at all, looking down at the 
chi'd. He returned to his chair and found that the sun had 
set. "Hit kain't be much longer," he thought. He could feel 
them quite near now, the curious and the vengeful. He could 
even seem to hear what they were saying about him, the 
undercurrent of believing beyond the immediate fury: Old 
Wash Jones he come a tumble at last. He thought he had 
Sutpen, but Sutpen pooled him. He thought he had Kernel 
'where he would have to marry the gal or pay up. And 
Kernel refused. "But I never expected that, Kernel!" he 
cried aloud, catching himself at the sound of his own voice, 
glancing quickly back to find his granddaughter watching 

"Who you talking to now?" she said. 

"Hit ain't nothing. I was just thinking and talked out 
before I knowed hit." 

Her face was becoming indistinct again, again a sullen blur 
in the twilight. "I reckon so. I reckon you'll have to holler 
louder than that before he'll hear you, up yonder at that 
house. And I reckon you'll need to do more than holler 
before you get him down here too." 

"Sho now," he said. "Don't you worry none." But already 
thinking was going smoothly on: "You know I never. You 
know how I ain't never expected or asked nothing from ara 
living man but what I expected from you. And I never asked 
that. I didn't think hit would need. I said, / don't need to. 
What need has a fellow like Wash Jones to question or 
doubt the man that General Lee himsetf says in a handwrote 
ticket that he was brave? Brave," he thought. "Better if nara 
one of them had never rid back home in '65"; thinking 
Better if his kind and mine too had never drawn the breath 
of life on this earth. Better that all who remain of us be 
blasted from the face of earth than that another Wash Jones 

Wash 549 

should see his 'whole life shredded from him and shrivel 
away like a dried shuck thrown onto the fire. 

He ceased, became still. He heard the horses, suddenly 
and plainly; presently he saw the lantern and the movement 
of men, the glint of gun barrels, in its moving light. Yet 
he did not stir. It was quite dark now, and he listened to 
the voices and the sounds of underbrush as they surrounded 
the house. The lantern itself came on; its light fell upon the 
quiet body in the weeds and stopped, the horses tall and 
shadowy. A man descended and stooped in the lantern light, 
above the body. He held a pistol; he rose and faced the 
house. "Jones," he said. 

"I'm here," Wash said quietly from the window. "That 
you, Major?" 

"Come out." 

"Sho," he said quietly. "I just want to see to my grand- 

"We'll see to her. Come on out." 

"Sho, Major. Just a minute." 

"Show a light. Light your lamp." 

"Sho. In just a minute." They could hear his voice retreat 
into the house, though they could not see him as he went 
swiftly to the crack in the chimney where he kept the 
butcher knife: the one thing in his slovenly life and house 
in which he took pride, since it was razor sharp. He ap- 
proached the pallet, his granddaughter's voice: 

"Who is it? Light the lamp, grandpaw." 

"Hit won't need no light, honey. Hit won't take but a 
minute," he said, kneeling, fumbling toward her voice, 
whispering now. "Where air you?" 

"Right here," she said fretfully. "Where would I be? 
What is . . ." His hand touched her face. "What is ... 
Grandpaw! Grand. . . ." 

"Jones!" the sheriff said. "Come out of there!" 

550 The Middle Ground 

"In just a minute, Major," he said. Now he rose and 
moved swiftly. He knew where in the dark the can of kero- 
sene was, just as he knew that it was full, since it was not 
two days ago that he had filled it at the store and held it 
there until he got a ride home with it, since the five gallons 
were heavy. There were still coals on the hearth; besides, 
the crazy building itself was like tinder: the coals, the hearth, 
the walls exploding in a single blue glare. Against it the 
waiting men saw him in a wild instant springing toward 
them with the lifted scythe before the horses reared and 
whirled. They checked the horses and turned them back 
toward the glare, yet still in wild relief against it the gaunt 
figure ran toward them with the lifted scythe. 

"Jones!" the sheriff shouted; "stop! Stop, or I'll shoot. 
Jones! Jones!" Yet still the gaunt, furious figure came on 
against the glare and roar of the flames. With the scythe 
lifted, it bore down upon them, upon the wild glaring eyes 
of the horses and the swinging glints of gun barrels, without 
any cry, any sound. 


I WALKED right through the anteroom without stopping. 
Miss West says, "He's in conference now," but I didn't stop. 
I didn't knock, either. They were talking and he quit and 
looked up across the desk at me. 

"How much notice do you want to write me off?" I said. 

"Write you off?" he said. 

"I'm quitting," I said. "Will one day be notice enough?" 

He looked at me, frog-eyed. "Isn't our car good enough 
for you to demonstrate?" he said. His hand lay on the desk, 
holding the cigar. Pie's got a ruby ring the size of a tail-light. 
"You've been with us three weeks," he says. "Not long 
enough to learn what that word on the door means." 

He don't know it, but three weeks is pretty good; it's 
within two days of the record. And if three weeks is a record 
with him, he could have shaken hands with the new champion 
without moving. 

The trouble is, I had never learned to do anything. You 
know how it was in those days, with even the college cam- 
puses full of British and French uniforms, and us all scared 
to death it would be over before we could get in and swank 
a pair of pilot's wings ourselves. And then to get in and find 
something that suited you right down to the ground, you 

So after the Armistice I stayed in for a couple of years as 

552 The Middle Ground 

a test pilot. That was when I took up wing-walking, to re- 
lieve the monotony. A fellow named Waldrip and I used to 
hide out at about three thousand on a Nine while I muscled 
around on top of it. Because Army life is pretty dull in peace- 
time: nothing to do but lay around and lie your head off all 
day and play poker all night. And isolation is bad for poker. 
You lose on tick, and on tick you always plunge. 

There was a fellow named White lost a thousand one 
night. He kept on losing and I wanted to quit but I was 
winner and he wanted to play on, plunging and losing every 
pot. He gave me a check and I told him it wasn't any rush, 
to forget it, because he had a wife out in California. Then the 
next night he wanted to play again. I tried to talk him out of 
it, but he got mad. Called me yellow. So he lost fifteen hun- 
dred more that night. 

Then I said I'd cut him, double or quit, one time. He cut 
a queen. So I said, "Well, that beats me. I won't even cut." 
And I flipped his cut over and riffled them and we saw a gob 
of face cards and three of the aces. But he insisted, and I said, 
"What's the use? The percentage would be against me, even 
with a full deck." But he insisted. I cut the case ace. I would 
have paid to lose. I offered again to tear up the checks, but 
he sat there and cursed me. I left him sitting at the table, in 
his shirt sleeves and his collar open, looking at the ace. 

The next day we had the job, the speed ship. I had done 
everything I could. I couldn't offer him the checks again. I 
will let a man who is worked up curse me once. But I won't 
let him twice. So we had the job, the speed ship. I wouldn't 
touch it. He took it up five thousand feet and dived the wings 
off at two thousand with a full gun. 

So I was out again after four years, a civ again. And while 
I was still drifting around that was when I first tried selling 
automobiles I met Jack, and he told me about a bird that 

Honor 553 

wanted a wing- walker for his barn-storming circus. And that 
was how I met her. 


JACK he gave me a note to Rogers told me about what 
a good pilot Rogers was, and about her, how they said she 
was unhappy with him. 

"So is your old man," I said. 

"That's what they say," Jack said. So when I saw Rogers 
and handed him the note he was one of these lean, quiet- 
looking birds I said to myself he was just the kind that 
would marry one of these flighty, passionate, good-looking 
women they used to catch during the war with a set of 
wings, and have her run out on him the first chance. So I felt 
safe. I knew she'd not have had to wait any three years for 
one like me. 

So I expected to find one of these long, dark, snake-like 
women surrounded by ostrich plumes and Woolworth in- 
cense, smoking cigarettes on the divan while Rogers ran out 
to the corner delicatessen for sliced ham and potato salad on 
paper plates. But I was wrong. She came in with an apron on 
over one of these little pale squashy dresses, with flour or 
something on her arms, without apologizing or flurrying 
around or anything. She said Howard that was Rogers 
had told her about me and I said, "What did he tell you?" 
But she just said: 

"I expect you'll find this pretty dull for spending the 
evening, having to help cook your own dinner. I imagine 
you'd rather go out to dance with a couple of bottles of gin." 

"Why do you think that?" I said. "Don't I look like I 
could do anything else?" 

"Oh, don't you? "she said. 

We had washed the dishes then and we were sitting in the 

554 The Middle Ground 

firelight, with the lights off, with her on a cushion on the 
floor, her back against Rogers' knees, smoking and talking, 
and she said, "I know you had a dull time. Howard sug- 
gested that we go out for dinner and to dance somewhere. 
But I told him you'd just have to take us as we are, first as 
well as later. Are you sorry?" 

She could look about sixteen, especially in the apron. By 
that time she had bought one for me to wear, and the three 
of us would all go back to the kitchen and cook dinner. "We 
don't expect you to enjoy doing this any more than we do," 
she said. "It's because we are so poor. We're just an aviator." 

"Well, Howard can fly well enough for two people," I 
said. "So that's all right, too." 

"When he told me you were just a flyer too, I said, 'My 
Lord, a wing-walker? When you were choosing a family 
friend,' I said, 'why didn't you choose a man we could invite 
to dinner a week ahead and not only count on his being there, 
but on his taking us out and spending his money on us?' But 
he had to choose one that is as poor as we are." And once 
she said to Rogers: "We'll have to find Buck a girl, too. He's 
going to get tired of just us some day." You know how they 
say things like that: things that sound like they meant some- 
thing until you look at them and find their eyes perfectly 
blank, until you wonder if they were even thinking about 
you, let alone talking about you. 

Or maybe I'd have them out to dinner and a show. "Only 
I didn't mean that like it sounded," she said. "That wasn't a 
hint to take us out." 

"Did you mean that about getting me a girl too?" I said. 

Then she looked at me with that wide, blank, innocent 
look. That was when I would take them by my place for a 
cocktail Rogers didn't drink, himself and when I would 
come in that night I'd find traces of powder on my dresser 
or maybe her handkerchief or something, and I'd go to bed 

Honor 555 

with the room smelling like she was still there. She said: "Do 
you want us to find you one?" But nothing more was ever 
said about it, and after a while, when there was a high step 
or any of those little things which men do for women that 
means touching them, she'd turn to me like it was me was her 
husband and not him; and one night a storm caught us down- 
town and we went to my place and she and Rogers slept in 
my bed and I slept in a chair in the sitting-room. 

One evening I was dressing to go out there when the 
'phone rang. It was Rogers. "I am " he said, then something 
cut him off. It was like somebody had put a hand on his 
mouth, and I could hear them talking, murmuring: her, 
rather. "Well, what " Rogers says. Then I could hear her 
breathing into the mouth-piece, and she said my name. 

"Don't forget you're to come out to-night," she said. 

"I hadn't," I said. "Or did I get the date wrong? If this is 
not the night " 

"You come on out," she said. "Goodbye." 

When I got there he met me. His face looked like it always 
did, but I didn't go in. "Come on in," he said. 

"Maybe I got the date wrong," I said. "So if you'll just " 

He swung the door back. "Come on in," he said. 

She was lying on the divan, crying. I don't know what; 
something about money. "I just can't stick it," she said. "I've 
tried and I've tried, but I just can't stand it." 

"You know what my insurance rates are," he said. "If 
something happened, where would you be?" 

"Where am I, anyway? What tenement woman hasn't 
got more than I have?" She hadn't looked up, lying there on 
her face, with the apron twisted under her. "Why don't you 
quit and do something that you can get a decent insurance 
rate, like other men?" 

"I must be getting along," I said. I didn't belong there. I 
just got out. He came down to the door with me, and then 

556 The Middle Ground 

we were both looking back up the stairs toward the door 
where she was lying on her face on the couch. 

"I've got a little stake," I said. "I guess because I've eaten 
so much of your grub I haven't had time to spend it. So if 
it's anything urgent. . . ." We stood there, he holding the 
door open. "Of course, I wouldn't try to muscle in where 
I don't . . ." 

"I wouldn't, if I were you," he said. He opened the door. 
"See you at the field tomorrow." 

"Sure," I said. "See you at the field." 

I didn't see her for almost a week, didn't hear from her. 
I saw him every day, and at last I said, "How's Mildred these 

"She's on a visit," he said. "At her mother's." 

For the next two weeks I was with him every day. When 
I was out on top I'd look back at his face behind the goggles. 
But we never mentioned her name, until one day he told me 
she was home again and that I was invited out to dinner that 

It was in the afternoon. He was busy all that day hopping 
passengers, so I was doing nothing, just killing time waiting 
for evening and thinking about her, wondering some, but 
mostly just thinking about her being home again, breathing 
the same smoke and soot I was breathing, when all of a sud- 
den I decided to go out there. It was plain as a voice saying, 
"Go out there. Now, at once." So I went. I didn't even wait 
to change. She was alone, reading before the fire. It was like 
gasoline from a broken line blazing up around you. 


IT WAS FUNNY. When I'd be out on top I'd look back at his 
face behind the windscreen, wondering what he knew. He 
must have known almost at once. Why, say, she didn't have 

Honor 557 

any discretion at all. She'd say and do things, you know: 
insist on sitting close to me; touching me in that different 
way from when you hold an umbrella or a raincoat over 
them, and such that any man can tell at one look, when she 
thought he might not see: not when she knew he couldn't, 
but when she thought maybe he wouldn't. And when I'd 
unfasten my belt and crawl out I'd look back at his face and 
wonder what he was thinking, how much he knew or sus- 

I'd go out there in the afternoon when he was busy. I'd 
stall around until I saw that he would be lined up for the rest 
of the day, then I'd give some excuse and beat it. One after- 
noon I was all ready to go, waiting for him to take off, when 
he cut the gun and leaned out and beckoned me. "Don't go 
off," he said. "I want to see you." 

So I knew he knew then, and I waited until he made the 
last hop and was taking off his monkey suit in the office. He 
looked at me and I looked at him. "Come out to dinner," 
he said. 

When I came in they were waiting. She had on one of 
those little squashy dresses and she came and put her arms 
around me and kissed me with him watching. 

"I'm going with you," she said. "We've talked it over and 
have both agreed that we couldn't love one another any more 
after this and that this is the only sensible thing to do. Then 
he can find a woman he can love, a woman that's not bad 
like I am." 

He was looking at me, and she running her hands over my 
face and making a little moaning sound against my neck, 
and me like a stone or something. Do you know what 1 was 
thinking? I wasn't thinking about her at all. I was thinking 
that he and I were upstairs and me out on top and I had just 
found that he had thrown the stick away and was flying her 
on the rudder alone and that he knew that I knew the stick 

558 The Middle Ground 

was gone and so it was all right now, whatever happened. 
So it was like a piece of wood with another piece of wood 
leaning against it, and she held back and looked at my face. 

"Don't you love me any more?" she said, watching my 
face. "If you love me, say so. I have told him everything." 

I wanted to be out of there. I wanted to run. I wasn't 
scared. It was because it was all kind of hot and dirty. I 
wanted to be away from her a little while, for Rogers and 
me to be out where it was cold and hard and quiet, to settle 

"What do you want to do?" I said. "Will you give her a 

She was watching my face very closely. Then she let me 
go and she ran to the mantel and put her face into the bend 
of her arm, crying. 

"You were lying to me," she said. "You didn't mean what 
you said. Oh God, what have I done?" 

You know how it is. Like there is a right time for every- 
thing. Like nobody is anything in himself: like a woman, 
even when you love her, is a woman to you just a part of the 
time and the rest of the time she is just a person that don't 
look at things the same way a man has learned to. Don't 
have the same ideas about what is decent and what is not. 
So I went over and stood with my arms about her, thinking, 
"God damn it, if you'll just keep out of this for a little while! 
We're both trying our best to take care of you, so it won't 
hurt you." 

Because I loved her, you see. Nothing can marry two 
people closer than a mutual sin in the world's eyes. And he 
had had his chance. If it had been me that knew her first and 
married her and he had been me, I would have had my 
chance. But it was him that had had it, so when she said, 
"Then say what you tell me when we are alone. I tell you 
I have told him everything," I said. 

Honor 559 

"Everything? Have you told him everything?" He was 
watching us. "Has she told you everything?" I said. 

"It doesn't matter," he said. "Do you want her?" Then 
before I could speak, he said: "Do you love her? Will you 
be good to her?" 

His face was gray-looking, like when you see a man again 
after a long time and you say, "Good God, is that Rogers?" 
When I finally got away the divorce was all settled. 


So THE NEXT MORNING when I reached the field, Harris, the 
man who owned the flying circus, told me about the special 
job; I had forgotten it, I suppose. Anyway, he said he had 
told me about it. Finally I said I wouldn't fly with Rogers. 

"Why not? "Harris said. 

"Ask him," I said. 

"If he agrees to fly you, will you go up?" 

So I said yes. And then Rogers came out; he said that he 
would fly me. And so I believed that he had known about the 
job all the time and had laid for me, sucked me in. We 
waited until Harris went out. "So this is why you were so 
mealy-mouthed last night," I said. I cursed him. "You've got 
me now, haven't you?" 

"Take the stick yourself," he said. "I'll do your trick." 

"Have you ever done any work like this before?" 

"No. But I can, as long as you fly her properly." 

I cursed him. "You feel good," I said. "You've got me. 
Come on; grin on the outside of your face. Come on!" 

He turned and went to the crate and began to get into the 
front seat. I went and caught his shoulder and jerked him 
back. We looked at one another. 

"I won't hit you now," he said, "if that's what you want. 
Wait till we get down again." 

560 The Middle Ground 

"No," I said. "Because I want to hit back once/' 

We looked at one another; Harris was watching us from 
the office. 

"All right," Rogers said. "Let me have your shoes, will 
you? I haven't got any rubber soles out here." 

"Take your seat," I said. "What the hell does it matter? 
I guess I'd do the same thing in your place." 

The job was over an amusement park, a carnival. There 
must have been twenty-five thousand of them down there., 
like colored ants. I took chances that day that I had never 
taken, chances you can't see from the ground. But every 
time the ship was right under me, balancing me against side 
pressure and all, like he and I were using the same mind. I 
thought he was playing with me, you see. I'd look back at 
his face, yelling at him: "Come on; now you've got me. 
Where are your guts?" 

I was a little crazy, I guess. Anyway, when I think of the 
two of us up there, yelling back and forth at one another, 
and all the little bugs watching and waiting for the big show, 
the loop. He could hear me, but I couldn't hear him; I could 
just see his lips moving. "Come on," I'd yell; "shake the wing 
a little; I'll go off easy, see?" 

I was a little crazy. You know how it is, how you want to 
rush into something you know is going to happen, no matter 
what it is. I guess lovers and suicides both know that feeling. 
I'd yell back at him: "You want it to look all right, eh? And 
to lose me off the level ship wouldn't look so good, would it? 
All right," I yelled, "let's go." I went back to the center 
section and cast the rope loose where it loops around the 
forward jury struts and I got set against it and looked back at 
him and gave him the signal. I was a little crazy. I was still 
yelling at him; I don't know what I was yelling. I thought 
maybe I had already fallen off and was dead and didn't know 
it. The wires began to whine and I was looking straight down 

Honor 561 

at the ground and the little colored dots. Then the wires 
were whistling proper and he gunned her and the ground 
began to slide back under the nose. I waited until it was gone 
and the horizon had slid back under too and I couldn't see 
anything but sky. Then I let go one end of the rope and 
jerked it out and threw it back at his head and held my arms 
out as she zoomed into the loop. 

I wasn't trying to kill myself. I wasn't thinking about my- 
self. I was thinking about him. Trying to show him up like 
he had shown me up. Give him something he must fail at 
like he had given me something I failed at. I was trying to 
break him. 

We were over the loop before he lost me. The ground 
had come back, with the little colored dots, and then the 
pressure went off my soles and I was falling. I made a half 
somersault and was just going into the first turn of a flat spin, 
with my face to the sky, when something banged me in the 
back. It knocked the wind out of me, and for a second I must 
have been completely out. Then I opened my eyes and I was 
lying on my back on the top wing, with my head hanging 
over the back edge. 

I was too far down the slope of the camber to bend my 
knees over the leading edge, and I could feel the wing creep- 
ing under me. I didn't dare move. I knew that if I tried to sit 
up against the slip stream, I would go off backward. I could 
see by the tail and the horizon that we were upside now, in 
a shallow dive, and I could see Rogers standing up in his 
cockpit, unfastening his belt, and I could turn my head a 
little more and see that when I went off I would miss the 
fuselage altogether, or maybe hit it with my shoulder. 

So I lay there with the wing creeping under me, feeling 
my shoulders beginning to hang over space, counting my 
backbones as they crept over the edge, watching Rogers 
crawl forward along the fuselage toward the front seat. I 

562 The Middle Ground 

watched him for a long time, inching himself along against 
the pressure, his trouser-legs whipping. After a while I saw 
his legs slide into the front cockpit and then I felt his hands 
on me. 

There was a fellow in my squadron. I didn't like him and 
he hated my guts. All right. One day he got me out of a 
tight jam when I was caught ten miles over the lines with a 
blowing valve. When we were down he said, "Don't think 
I was just digging you out. I was getting a Hun, and I got 
him." He curse